Oil may hit $240 if EU follows suit with sanctions on Russian crude

The higher prices go, the greater the chances of the global economy sliding into a recession

Oil prices are at a 14-year high and further escalation of the Russian-Ukraine conflict or the EU banning energy imports from Russia could drive prices higher and send the world economy into a recession. AP
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Oil prices could soar to $240 a barrel by this summer if other western countries join the US and the UK in banning the import of Russia energy products, Rystad Energy has said.

Prices rallied late on Tuesday after the announcement of the British and American ban on importing Russian oil, but remained within the same range on Wednesday.

Brent, the global benchmark for two thirds of the world's oil, was 3.31 per cent lower at $123.8 a barrel at 3.37pm UAE time on Wednesday, while West Texas Intermediate, the gauge that tracks US crude, fell 3.35 per cent to $119.6.

Oil prices are up almost 100 per cent since last year and rallied more than 25 per cent since the start of this year, driven by a faster-than-expected economic recovery, but also years of underinvestment in the energy industry after prices collapsed in 2014, which has restricted the output capacity of some producers. The outbreak of the Russia-Ukraine conflict has shaken markets further and the surge in energy prices could send the global economy into a recession.

"This is the largest energy crisis in decades and the impact on the world’s most important commodity is going to be unprecedented," said Bjornar Tonhaugen, head of oil markets at Rystad Energy.

"Market volatility is at an all-time high, with prices surging on the expectation that supply will further tighten due to restrictive sanctions on Russian energy."

Additional sanctions from western countries on Russia, the world's second-largest energy exporter, would lead to a 4.3 million barrels per day gap in the market, which cannot be quickly replaced by other sources of supply. That would create the largest potential oil supply shortage since the First Gulf War, when oil prices doubled, Mr Tonhaugen said.

That will lead to a surge in prices that "destroy sufficient demand and incentivise a supply response through higher activity – both of which happen with a time lag of several months – to rebalance the market at a higher supply/demand/price intersection", he said.

Brent hit a record high of $147.02 on July 11, 2008 amid the global financial crisis, while WTI rose to $146.90 the same day.

"If 4.3 million bpd of Russian oil exports to the West are halted by April 2022, and where China and India only keep current import levels intact, Brent would need to spike to $240 per barrel by the summer of 2022 to destroy demand," Mr Tonhaugen said.

After the move by Washington and London on Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree that restricts the import and export of specified goods and raw materials, according to lists determined by the Russian government, which will be in effect until the end of this year, Interfax news agency said. No further details were provided.

A day earlier, Russia's Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak, warned Moscow retains the option to cut natural gas supplies to Europe through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline that runs through Ukraine, if the EU bans its crude imports.

Russia supplies about 40 per cent of Europe's gas, while its crude accounts for about 3 per cent of US oil imports, equal to about 200,000 barrels a day.

Mr Novak also gave a warning that oil prices could exceed $300 a barrel if the EU follows in the footsteps of the US and the UK, forcing Moscow to retaliate.

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In Houston, Texas, at the energy industry's CeraWeek conference, Occidental chief executive Vicki Hollub said oil may reach $150 a barrel due to the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

"It is clear that oil prices will continue to rise until they reach an unsustainable level that curtails demand," Mr Tonhaugen said.

"The higher prices go, the larger the chances of the global economy entering a recession already in the fourth quarter of 2022. Oil at $240 per barrel would trigger a global recession and self-destruct the price level within just a few months, after which prices would fall sharply."

Gold, the precious metal that is a traditional safe haven and hedge against inflation, rallied to $2,076.0 an ounce on Tuesday on the Chicago Board of Trade. It receded on Wednesday but remains elevated at $2,002 at 5.36pm UAE time.

Updated: March 09, 2022, 3:21 PM
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