A few years ago the fear was Peak Oil, oil reaching $1,000/barrel prices. Thanks to renewable energy advances, manipulated supply for intra-industry price wars, and dramatically decreased demand during the corona crisis, oil prices collapsed and went negative temporarily. From recent typical prices of ~$60/barrel (roughly USD $1/gallon), prices collapsed to -$32/gallon (note the negative sign). Investors were paying people to take their oil. Oil prices were facing pressures from new technologies and typical competition that brought prices down from ~$100/barrel to ~$60/barrel. More recently, internal industry competition inspired some producers to drop prices to possibly eliminate competitors with higher costs. This is similar to what happened during an earlier fracking surge. The current oil price war dropped prices to ~$20/barrel. Then the corona crisis occurred, dramatically and surprisingly dropping demand. Supply was high. Demand is low. Prices fall. That’s basic economics. The reality is that oil must be stored somewhere. Because so few people are using oil for transportation and heat, the oil has filled so many storage tanks that the producers are having to store the oil in tankers. Investors who bought futures on oil that are expected to take delivery suddenly found themselves trying to get rid of their oil at any price, even if it meant paying someone else to take it. Hence, instead of hoping to resell at a profit, they’re having to pay someone to take their oil, please. The situation is temporary. Some contracts are reportedly positive again, but only a few dollars per barrel. The unexpected combination of events is adding yet another significant disruption to the world’s economy. Some large investors lost a lot of money. Whether that cascades into difficulties for financial institutions and governments is something to watch, regardless of the corona virus.

One thought on “Oil Crashes To Negative Prices

  1. Pingback: Data That Matters April 2020 | Pretending Not To Panic

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