TRUMP’S REVENGE ON OPEC AND RUSSIA
The United States is flooding the European markets with record amounts crude oil as US producers seize on Russia and the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) pact to cut output resulting in soaring oil prices.
US crude oil is seen as the cheaper option as the OPEC-Russia pact begins to bite after agreeing to oil output jointly by 1.8million barrels per day (bpd) help rebalance the market and to help elevate the benchmark Brent prices.
Now, the relatively high prices brought about by that pact, coupled with surging US output, are making it harder to sell Russian, Nigerian and other oil grades in Europe, traders say.
A trader with a Mediterranean refiner, who regularly buys Russian and Caspian Sea crude and has recently started purchasing US oil. He said: “US oil is on offer everywhere. It puts local grades under a lot of pressure.”
In April, US supplies to Europe are set to reach an all-time high of roughly 550,000 barrels per day (bpd), according to the Thomson Reuters Eikon trade flows monitor.
In January-April, US supplies jumped four-fold year-on-year to 6.8 million tons, or 68 large Aframax tankers, according to the same data.
Trade sources said US flows to Europe would keep rising, with US barrels increasingly finding homes in foreign refineries, often at the expense of oil from OPEC or Russia.
In 2017, Europe received roughly seven percent from the US, however this year, the number has nearly doubled to 12 percent according to Reuters data. Top destinations include Britain, Italy and the Netherlands, with traders pointing to large imports by BP, Exxon Mobil and Valero.
Polish refiners PKN Orlen and Grupa Lotos and Norway’s Statoil are sampling US grades, while other new buyers are likely, David Wech of Vienna-based JBC Energy consultancy says.
Following the US lifting its ban on oil exports in 2015 which was brought in by then President Gerald Ford in 1975, US oil slowly started to take place in the European markets.
Ehsan Ul-Haq, director of London-based consultancy Resource Economics said: “European refiners started experimenting with US crude last year. Now, they know more than enough to process this crude.”
US oil gained in popularity, sources said, in part because of the wide gap between West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark, and dated Brent, which is more expensive and sets the price for most of the world’s crude grades.
This gap, known as the Brent/WTI spread, has averaged $4.46 per barrel this year, nearly twice as high as the year-earlier figure, Reuters data showed.
On Friday (4/20), President Donald Trump accused OPEC of “artificially” inflating their prices:
Traders now expect Brent to fall rapidly, confidant that Mr. Putin and OPEC’s dream of $100 oil is a fantasy. Call it Trump’s Revenge.
Darius McQuaid is a British journalist focusing on international finance and energy.