The unprecedented oil market crash this week has put Russian crude under pressure, with its export-bound Urals blend falling by almost $6 to trade below $12 per barrel, according to energy information provider Argus Media.
The Russian oil benchmark, the price of which is determined in relation to Brent crude, was trading lower only on April 2, when it dropped to $10.54 per barrel (CIF Rotterdam). That was the weakest level since March 1999. Urals had almost doubled in price a week later, on reports of OPEC+ negotiations.
Monday’s epic crash of West Texas Intermediate, when the price of U.S. crude fell below zero for the first time in history, occurred amid fears that crude storage tanks are running out of space. And international benchmark Brent was not itself spared the market turmoil, plunging to the lowest level since 2001 on Wednesday. Brent futures for June delivery were trading as low as $16 a barrel.
According to Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak, the situation on the global oil market should not be dramatized, because “this is a paper market, which means trading in derivative financial instruments, not physical oil.”
“We currently see a lot of speculative moments, particularly on futures contracts. As of today, the market exists in uncertainty, which is mainly connected with the fact that crude storage spaces around the globe are projected to be filled,” he said on Wednesday.
Novak added that he expects high volatility on the oil market to persist until the new OPEC+ crude production cut deal begins. The agreement reached by members of OPEC+ and their allies, including Russia and Mexico, represents a drop in production of 9.7 million barrels per day in May and June – the deepest cut ever agreed to by the world’s oil producers. After that, the group will steadily ramp up production until the agreement expires in April 2022.