Oil adds another dollar as Iran sanctions loom

A US Navy soldier onboard Mark VI Patrol Boat stands guard as an oil tanker makes its way towards Bahrain port, during an exercise. (Reuters)
Updated 11 September 2018
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Oil adds another dollar as Iran sanctions loom

  • US sanctions to target Iran oil exports from November
  • Washington wants other producers to replace falling Iran exports

LONDON: Oil prices rose about $1 a barrel on Tuesday as US sanctions squeezed Iranian crude exports, tightening global supply despite efforts by Washington to get other producers to increase output.
Brent crude futures rose $1.13 to $78.50 a barrel while WTI crude gained $1.10 to $68.64 a barrel in mid afternoon trade in London.
“The impact of the US sanctions on Iran is firmly being felt,” said Tamas Varga, analyst at London brokerage PVM Oil. “The biggest worry is obviously the amount of Iranian oil that is disappearing from the market.”
Washington has told its allies to reduce imports of Iranian oil and several Asian buyers, including South Korea, Japan and India appear to be falling in line.
But the US government does not want to push up oil prices, which could depress economic activity or even trigger a slowdown in global growth.
US Energy Secretary Rick Perry met Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih on Monday in Washington, as the Trump administration encourages big oil-producing countries to keep output high. Perry will meet with Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak on Thursday in Moscow.
Russia, the US and Saudi Arabia are the world’s three biggest oil producers by far, meeting around a third of the world’s almost 100 million barrels per day (bpd) of daily crude consumption.
Their combined output has risen by 3.8 million bpd since September 2014, more than the peak output Iran has managed over the last three years.
Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said on Tuesday that Russia and a group of producers around the Middle East which dominate OPEC may sign a new long-term cooperation deal at the beginning of December, the TASS news agency reported. Novak did not provide details.
A group of OPEC and non-OPEC producers have been voluntarily withholding supplies since January 2017 to tighten markets, but with crude prices up by more than 40 percent since then and markets significantly tighter, there has been pressure on producers to raise output.
As Middle East markets tighten, Asian buyers are seeking alternative supplies, with South Korean and Japanese imports of US crude hitting a record in September.
US oil producers are seeking new buyers for crude they used to sell to China before orders slowed because of the trade disputes between Washington and Beijing.
This is one reason that the discount for US crude versus Brent has widened to around $10 per barrel, the biggest since June, traders said.


‘Get prices down’ Trump tells OPEC

Updated 20 September 2018
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‘Get prices down’ Trump tells OPEC

  • Trump highlights US security role in region
  • Comments come ahead of oil producers meeting in Algeria

LONDON: US president Donald Trump urged OPEC to lower crude prices on Thursday while reminding Mideast oil exporters of US security support.
He made his remarks on Twitter ahead of a keenly awaited meeting of OPEC countries and its allies in Algiers this weekend as pressure mounts on them to prevent a spike in prices caused by the reimposition of oil sanctions on Iran.
“We protect the countries of the Middle East, they would not be safe for very long without us, and yet they continue to push for higher and higher oil prices!” he tweeted.
“We will remember. The OPEC monopoly must get prices down now!”
Despite the threat, the group and its allies are unlikely to agree to an official increase in output, Reuters reported on Thursday, citing OPEC sources.
In June they agreed to increase production by about one million barrels per day (bpd). That decision was was spurred by a recovery in oil prices, in part caused by OPEC and its partners agreeing to lower production since 2017.
Known as OPEC+, the group of oil producers which includes Russia are due to meet on Sunday in Algiers to look at how to allocate the additional one million bpd within its quote a framework.
OPEC sources told Reuters that there was no immediate plan for any official action as such a move would require OPEC to hold what it calls an extraordinary meeting, which is not on the table.
Oil prices slipped after Trumps remarks, with Brent crude shedding 40 cents to $79 a barrel in early afternoon trade in London while US light crude was unchanged at about $71.12.
Brent had been trading at around $80 on expectations that global supplies would come under pressure from the introduction of US sanctions on Iranian crude exports on Nov. 4.
Some countries has already started to halt imports from Tehran ahead of that deadline, leading analysts to speculate about how much spare capacity there is in the Middle East to compensate for the loss of Iranian exports as well as how much of that spare capacity can be easily brought online after years of under-investment in the industry.
Analysts expect oil to trend higher and through the $80 barrier as the deadline for US sanctions approaches.
“Brent is definitely fighting the $80 line, wanting to break above,” said SEB Markets chief commodities analyst Bjarne Schieldrop, Reuters reported. “But this is likely going to break very soon.”