By Michael Kern
After yesterday’s historic crash which left the West Texas Intermediate U.S. benchmark settling at -$37, panic is beginning to spread through markets, with Brent crude oil prices plummeting by over 20 percent into the $18 range in early morning trading.
The drop, sparked by a perfect storm of COVID-19 fueled demand destruction and global crude storage facilities reaching their limits, is unlike anything markets have ever seen. And it’s left every even the most. veteran industry players scratching their heads.
From Asia to North America, all over the world oil producers and traders are looking for just one thing – a place to put their unwanted products.
Supertankers are in high demand and often left idling offshore as on-shore facilities are out of space. In the North Sea, for example, vessels have been parked for days, loaded with gasoline and jet fuel with nowhere to go.
Even the world’s largest oil storage firm, Vopak, which operates three main facilities in Singapore, Rotterdam and Fujairah, is saying they’re at capacity.
Gerard Paulides, the chief financial officer of Rotterdam-based Royal Vopak NV, noted that “For Vopak, worldwide available capacity that is not in maintenance is almost all gone and from what I hear elsewhere in the world we’re not the only ones.”
In addition to the storage crisis and COVID-19 fueled demand destruction, Oilprice.com reported that a wave of oil from Saudi Arabia was heading to U.S. shores. And with little commercial space available, the additional crude could potentially force deeper production cuts in the U.S. shale patch in the coming months, an issue that has been the center of a heated debate in Texas.
The Texas Railroad Commission is set to meet again later today to discuss the crisis. Last week the three commissioners failed to come to an agreement regarding mandated cuts across the state, but with WTI prices dropping by 300% yesterday, free-market or not, the commissioners might just change their tune.