Brent crude briefly exceeded $ 65 a barrel for the first time in a year as a cold explosion that hit U.S. oil production turned into a global supply shock.
More than 4 million barrels a day of U.S. production – about 40% of crude production – is now offline, traders and executives say, amid an unprecedented cold snap that has frozen well operations and leads to widespread power cuts. A wave of outages at refineries, however, has dampened demand for crude in the country, while gasoline consumption is also declining as freezing conditions prevent many Americans from driving.
The supply shock is helping an already foamy global oil market and starting to alter energy flows, with traders taking over ocean-going tankers to transport millions of barrels of European diesel to the United States. nearly 6 million barrels drop in US crude inventories. Government data is expected later Thursday. Brent’s rapid time gap has shifted into a bullish retrograde pattern, reflecting tighter global supply.
Estimates of the duration of outages in the United States have risen in recent days as analysts try to determine how long the infrastructure thaws. Crude is up 25% this year, as Saudi Arabia’s sharp production cuts and improving demand prospects encourage investors.
“The outage will be temporary, but it will still help accelerate US oil inventories towards the five-year average faster than expected,” said Bjarne Schieldrop, chief commodities analyst at SEB AB.
As US barrels are withdrawn from the market, North Sea traders have launched a frantic bid for the region’s cargoes. Buyers in Asia, on the other hand, bought Middle Eastern crude at higher premiums.
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Saudi Arabia’s Energy Minister, meanwhile, urged other members of the OPEC + alliance to remain cautious as they prepare to consider further increases in production. The group will meet in early March to decide whether it can restart some of the production stopped during the coronavirus pandemic.
The cold burst pushed the rapid spread of WTI into a bearish contango structure, given the lack of demand from the disrupted refineries. However, the similar spread for Brent is now 73 cents a barrel, down from 29 cents at the start of last week.
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