The world’s biggest trading houses said on Wednesday they saw oil prices not falling below $65 per barrel and possibly breaking above $100 next year as U.S. sanctions on Iran reduce crude exports from the Islamic republic.
Oil has rallied this year on expectations the sanctions, coming into force on Nov. 4, will test the ability of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and others to fill the supply gap as shipments from OPEC member Iran decline.
Brent crude last week reached $86.74 a barrel, the highest since 2014.
But in 2019, forecasters such as the International Energy Agency say emerging-market crises and trade disputes could dent global demand while rising non-OPEC production adds to supply.
Jeremy Weir, chief executive of Trafigura, said at the Oil & Money conference in London that he would not be surprised to see oil trade at more than $100 per barrel next year.
Alex Beard, chief executive for oil and gas at Glencore , said at the same event that he forecast a mid-term oil price of $85-90, as a release of U.S. strategic oil stocks looked remote and would have limited impact anyway.
“I think the sanctions will be very tough. Waivers will be extremely limited if any and I don’t see an end to it as the objective is regime change in 2019. I can’t see anything that will affect oil prices dramatically to the downside,” Beard said.
“The European payment mechanism doesn’t shield you if you use the U.S. financial system … you can pay but don’t expect to be on their Christmas card list.”
Beard added that U.S. infrastructure limitations would limit U.S. crude exports that could otherwise compensate and new refining capacity coming online in 2019 would add further tightness.
The traders said, however, they expected some demand destruction in emerging market economies to help cap oil prices.
The chief executive of Gunvor, Torbjorn Tornqvist, said he saw lower prices next year at $70-$75, citing a slowdown in demand growth and a well-supplied market.
“There will be some Iranian exports but the amount will depend on the price. If oil goes up to $100 a barrel then waivers, if it stays around $80 a barrel then no waivers,” Tornqvist said.
Vitol and BP presented the most bearish views. Vitol Chairman Ian Taylor forecast a price of $65 a barrel.
“We’ve knocked down our demand growth forecast this year and for next year … I think the only issue is: will the U.S. pipeline in the Permian (oilfield) manage to deliver a huge increase in the second half of 2019?,” Taylor said.
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