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Business Maverick

Russia crisis forces rethink of oil market’s balance of risks

Russia crisis forces rethink of oil market’s balance of risks
Storage tanks stand at the Imperium Grays Harbour LLC biodiesel plant in Aberdeen, Washington, U.S., on Friday, May 15, 2009. (Photo: CARLOS JAVIER SANCHEZ/Bloomberg News)

The global oil market faces fresh risks from the uprising in Russia by mercenary group Wagner, according to Goldman Sachs Group Inc., although it cautioned that the near-term impact was likely to be muted.

“The higher risk of lower supply at some point may put some upward pressure on prices,” analysts including Daan Struyven and Callum Bruce said in a note on 25 June. Still, the initial impact should be limited, they added.

Oil fluctuated on Monday when investors get their first opportunity to price in the weekend’s events, which US and European officials privately described as an unprecedented challenge to President Vladimir Putin’s control. While Russia’s crude shipments appeared unaffected, the nation is one of the top exporters and a pivotal member of OPEC+ along with Saudi Arabia.

“The immediate challenge to the Putin regime appears to have receded,” RBC Capital Markets LLC analysts including Helima Croft said in a June 25 note. “However, the risk of further civil unrest in Russia now must be factored into our oil analysis for the back half of the year.”

Goldman Sachs addressed a slate of possible, longer-term risks. Since the rebellion was initiated around Rostov-on-Don in the south — by the Sea of Azov, which filters into the Black Sea — oil infrastructure in that region may face a relatively higher risk of disruption or blockade, it said.

In addition, given the Wagner group’s presence in Libya, it possesses a capability to disrupt oil production there, Goldman said. Blockades — which could limit nearly all of Libya’s 1.1 million barrels a day of output — have occurred several times in the last five years, according to Goldman.

Still, the market could discount the increased risk of Russian supply disruptions as its OPEC+ partners, including Saudi Arabia, may dial down some of the recent voluntary cuts in response to any large export decline. And should tensions between the cartel’s two biggest producers escalate, there may be higher core OPEC output, it said. DM

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