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Oil Price Volatility Soars Amid Geopolitical Uncertainty

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Oil price volatility has climbed dramatically as tensions between Israel and Iran escalate, with Brent breaking the $90 mark early on Friday morning before falling back to the $86 handle.

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Friday, April 19th 2024

The drastic seesawing of oil prices in recent trading sessions reflects the uncertainty surrounding the Israel-Iran conflict, with initial reports of Israeli strikes on Iranian soil ratcheting up Brent above $90 per barrel, only to see them plunge back to $86 per barrel following Tehran’s dismissal of their impact. The reimposition of oil sanctions on Venezuela was placed on the back burner by the market as geopolitics have reigned supreme lately. 

US Reimposes Oil Sanctions on Venezuela. The US Department of State has let its 6-month waiver allowing Venezuela to freely trade its crude expire, claiming President Maduro failed to fulfill his pre-election commitments and provided oil companies a 45-day grace period to wind down operations in the country. 

Congress Targets China’s Purchases of Iranian Oil. The US House of Representatives overwhelmingly (383-11) passed a bill countering China’s purchases of Iranian crude oil, seeking to sanction transactions between Chinese financial institutions and Iran, with the legislation moving to the Senate where it faces an uncertain fate. 

UAE Sovereign Fund to Take Over Spanish Major. Abu Dhabi’s TAQA is in talks with the three largest shareholders of Spanish gas-focused energy firm Naturgy (BME:NTGY) over a possible takeover bid, with the company’s market value of $22 billion making it potentially the largest such deal by a sovereign fund.

EU to Sue Germany Over Its Gas Tariffs. The European Commission is expected to sue Germany for charging its neighbors an extra fee for buying gas from its storage sites, defying the EU’s single-market rules and tripling the “neutrality charge” fee since it was initially introduced in October 2022.

White House Mulls Summer SPR Releases. Senior White House adviser John Podesta claimed the Biden administration could release strategic petroleum stocks over the summer months to ensure affordable gasoline prices, just as high oil prices have halted the US Energy Department’s SPR replenishment plans.  

Kazakhstan Claims $150 Billion From Oil Majors. The government of Kazakhstan has raised its arbitration claims against the NCOC consortium of international majors that developed its 13 Bbbls Kashagan supergiant field to $150 billion, claiming it recalculated the value of oil promised oil production that was not delivered. 

Creditors Want Conoco to Take Over Citgo. Activist investor Elliott Investment Management has voiced its interest in Citgo Petroleum, operating three refineries with a capacity of 807,000 b/d, whilst the Centerview group of investors wants to lure ConocoPhillips (NYSE:COP) to spearhead their bid. 

Decommissioning Costs Loom for US Producers. The US Department of Interior announced new BOEM offshore rules that require the oil and gas industry to raise some $7 billion in financial assurances for the decommissioning of offshore platforms, penalizing firms without sufficient proven reserves as they’d need to provide supplemental financial coverage. 

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White House Restricts Alaska Drilling and Mining. The Biden administration finalized a regulation to block oil and gas development on 40% of Alaska’s National Petroleum Reserve, also rejecting a proposal to connect the Ambler Mining district to the state’s road infrastructure. 

European Gas Prices Firm on Israel-Iran Strikes. Europe’s benchmark TTF prices moved up to €31-32 per mmBtu ($11/mmBtu) as the missile and drone exchange between Israel and Iran alerted European buyers to the risks of a potential closure of the Strait of Hormuz.

Mexico Hands Over Key Gas Field to Carlos Slim. According to Mexican press reports, the country’s state oil company Pemex has agreed to hand over control of its key Lakach natural gas project in the Gulf of Mexico to Grupo Carso (BMV:GCARSO), the holding company of billionaire Carlos Slim.

Namibia to Set Up Sovereign Wealth Fund. Just as Shell (LON:SHEL) hit another oil discovery with its Enigma-1X exploration well in offshore Namibia, the African country announced it would create a sovereign wealth fund to reinvest its oil revenues, benefitting its meager $13 billion economy.  

Saudi Arabia Wants a Share of Barrick’s Mega Mine. Saudi Arabia’s mining investment fund Manara Minerals is reportedly closing in on a deal to buy a minority stake in the $7 billion Reko Diq copper and gold mine operated by Barrick Gold (NYSE:GOLD), possibly buying out part of the Pakistani government’s equity. 

By Michael Kern for Oilprice.com

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