Russian oil production is falling. In March, it shed half a million bpd, which by the end of April reached a full 1 million bpd, according to BP’s CEO, Bernard Looney. And this may well grow to 2 million bpd this month. These barrels may not be returning to the market any time soon. As the European Union targeted a barrage of sanctions on Moscow, oil was excluded as a direct target but financial and maritime sanctions affected the industry. Now, the EU is proposing a full oil embargo, save for a handful of member states too dependent on Russian oil to comply, and this will mean a further loss of barrels at a time when the global oil market is already stretched thin.
"We could potentially see the loss of more than 7 million barrels per day (bpd) of Russian oil and other liquids exports, resulting from current and future sanctions or other voluntary actions," the secretary-general of OPEC, Mohammed Barkindo, told the European Union last month.
This does not appear to have made any lasting impression on the decision-makers in Brussels, who are moving full steam ahead with the oil embargo. Meanwhile, alternative suppliers would struggle to fill the void left by Russian oil.
Russia expects it could lose some 17% of its pre-war oil production this year, Reuters reported last month, citing a document from the country’s economy ministry. The report noted this would be the biggest production drop since the 1990s—a tumultuous time for Russia following the breakup of the Soviet Union.
That would be close to 2 million bpd—a figure similar to Looney’s forecast and also to a forecast made by Rystad Energy about lost Russian oil production between 2021 and 2030. If the Rystad projections are right, the fallout from the EU oil embargo would be limited and most Russian production will simply be redirected as it already is. If, however, production declines more, this could see international prices spike much higher.
When European buyers started refusing to accept Russian oil cargoes, those cargoes had to return home to be stored somewhere. According to local reports, however, storage space is limited, and this has probably forced the idling of some wells, which if idled, can see their ability to produce in the future affected.
But there is also danger ahead for Russia’s future production. This may also not materialize as previously planned because of the exit of Big Oil majors from the country, Dan Dicker, host of The Energy Word, told Yahoo Finance earlier this week. Their exit, combined with financial sanctions on Russian banks, will make developing new resources in eastern Siberia more challenging.
Meanwhile, OPEC is producing less, rather than more, oil, and U.S. producers are under fire from legislators for alleged profiteering from the oil price rally and struggling with shortages of materials, equipment, and workforce.
U.S. oil production will rise by only 800,000 bpd this year, according to the Energy Information Administration’s latest Short-Term Energy Outlook. That’s not good news for America’s European partners. It’s not good news for Americans, either, because it means prices will likely remain high.
Except for OPEC and the United States, there are few producers large enough to spare oil for Europe, if any. Brazil is expanding its oil production but its total stands at around 3 million bpd, which is what the EU was importing from Russia before the war in Ukraine began. That leaves the Central Asian producers, who are parties to the OPEC+ agreement and firmly within the Russian sphere of influence, too.
What all this means is that with the loss of 2 million bpd of Russian production, a lot of the world is in for prolonged oil price pain, which means all-price pain as well. The beneficiaries are China and India, who are buying Russian crude at a discount, with no logical reason for them to stop, despite threats from Washington. But Russia’s oil production could still fall by more than 2 million bpd.
“Europe’s dependence on Russian energy has been a deliberate and decades-long and mutually beneficial relationship. In this early phase of sanctions and embargoes, Russia will benefit as higher prices mean tax revenues are significantly higher than in recent years,” said Daria Melnik, senior analyst at Rystad Energy.
“Pivoting exports to Asia will take time and massive infrastructure investments that in the medium term will see Russia’s production and revenues drop precipitously,” she added.
With most producers constrained in their capacity to boost production fast, should this scenario play out, oil could become a lot more expensive with little in the way of downside pressure, including electric vehicles. Electric vehicles are about to experience a shortage of batteries and still higher prices. There are some really interesting times ahead.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com