| 21 February 2024, Wednesday |

Oil slides from decade-highs as Iran talks kindle supply hopes

Oil fell 2% on Thursday after reaching levels not seen in over a decade, as sellers leapt on optimism that the United States and Iran will soon reach an agreement on a nuclear deal, which may add barrels to a tight global market.

Crude prices rose early to multi-year highs on concerns about Russia, which exports 4 to 5 million barrels per day (bpd), the second-most in the world after Saudi Arabia. Companies are now avoiding Russian supply and searching for barrels elsewhere as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

According to Phil Flynn, an analyst with Price Futures Group, oil markets are in a “explosive mood” due to rising anti-Russia sentiment. “The international community does not want to deal with a country that is committing atrocities in Ukraine.”

Brent futures were down $2.47, or 2.2 percent, to $110.46 a barrel, while WTI oil in the United States sank $2.93, or 2.6 percent, to $107.67.

During the day, both benchmarks reached multi-year highs, with Brent reaching $119.84, its best since May 2012, and WTI reaching $116.57, its highest since September 2008.

Washington and its Western allies have imposed sanctions on Russia, but the measures have so far stopped short of targeting Russian oil and gas exports. A new round of sanctions announced by the White House on Wednesday banned export of specific refining technologies, making it harder for Russia to modernize oil refineries.

Traders remain wary of Russian oil. At least 10 tankers failed to find buyers on Wednesday, market sources said.

Canada said it will remove Russia and Belarus’s most favored nation status as trading partners, and will provide additional military aid to Ukraine.

Global benchmark Brent has jumped nearly 25% since the Russian invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, an action Moscow calls a “special operation.” Brent’s six-month spread hit a record high of over $21 a barrel, indicating very tight supplies.

Media reports have suggested the United States and Iran have nearly completed a deal that could bring more than a million bpd of oil, or about 1% of global supply, back to the market.

Negotiations to revive the pact have been going on for 10 months in Vienna. Diplomats are believed to be in the final stage of talks.

But on Thursday a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog, showed the stock of enriched uranium amassed by Iran was in breach of its 2015 nuclear deal, with the country nearing the ability to make a nuclear bomb.

The chief of the IAEA, Rafael Grossi will visit Tehran on Saturday in an effort to resolve outstanding issues.

“Grossi’s trip increases the odds of the revival of the (nuclear deal) to 70% from 60%,” consultancy Eurasia Group said, noting “a deal is likely this month and as soon as the next several days.”

That supply relief may only end up filling part of a gap left by buyers curtailing purchases of Russian oil, which accounts for about 8% of global oil exports.

“We expect that Russian oil exports will plunge by 1 million bpd from the indirect impact of sanctions and voluntary actions by companies,” said Rystad Energy Chief Executive Jarand Rystad. “Oil prices are likely to continue to climb – potentially beyond $130 per barrel.”

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, Russia and their allies, a group known as OPEC+, on Wednesday stuck to an existing plan for a gradual output rise of 400,000 bpd a month, snubbing consumer calls for more.

  • Reuters