Strategist on oil prices in winter, China and Europe energy crisis
Oil prices could experience an “off the charts spike” as winter approaches and OPEC and its allies stick to their earlier pact on oil output, a strategist told CNBC.
OPEC+ — the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, with their allies including Russia — have been under pressure from top consumers, such as the United States and India, to add extra supplies after oil prices surged 50% this year.
However, the oil cartel agreed on Monday to stick to an existing pact to hike oil output by 400,000 barrels per day (bpd) in November, shrugging off calls to pump more oil.
John Driscoll, chief strategist at JTD Energy Services, said the decision by OPEC+ was a “very prudent course of action” until one considers the ongoing energy crises and possible supply disruptions.
“What I think [is] more concerning to everyone out there … what happens during the winter? Are we going to have another Arctic freeze?” Driscoll told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia” on Tuesday.
He pointed to the shortage of fuel in the U.K. — with long queues of cars waiting to buy gas, as well as “fist fights.” In the U.K., people have been panic buying fuel, causing shortages, as well as straining the fuel supply chains.
BURY ST EDMUNDS, SUFFOLK, UNITED KINGDOM – 2021/09/25: People filling their cars up at BP petrol station during the fuel crisis in Bury St Edmunds.
SOPA Images | LightRocket | Getty Images
“When you get into winter, what you really have to worry about is this non-discretionary demand,” Driscoll said. Non-discretionary demand refers to essential spending for daily goods and services.
Driscoll said what’s especially worrying is a thin inventory, or if there’s “any kind of supply chain glitch.”
Supply chains have been strained by the panic buying of fuel in Britain, and is due in part to a major lack of truck drivers due to Brexit and the U.K.’s new trading relations with the EU. It’s led the U.K. to resort to bringing in the army to deliver fuel.
“You could see an off the charts spike — that is one scenario out there,” said Driscoll, of oil prices. “I don’t really hear anybody talking about the prospects of a mild subdued winter. I think, given all the uncertainty over weather and climate change, we could be in for a wild ride here.”
Oil prices hit a three-year high after the OPEC+ decision. Brent was last at $82.47 per barrel on Wednesday morning during Asia hours, and WTI was at $78.84.
But energy prices were already surging this year, with crude jumping more than 50% year-to-date, adding to inflationary pressures.
Oil prices jumping to $100 per barrel is possible, but it’s not one that is sustainable, Driscoll said.
“I see that as kind of a lower probability scenario. That is, if everything goes wrong, if we have Arctic weather, if we’ve got glitches, breakdowns in the deliverability, the supply chains. That is a possible scenario but I don’t see that likely to be sustainable,” he said.
Driscoll also pointed to the energy crisis in China, which led to widespread disruptions as local authorities ordered power cuts at many factories.
As the country grapples with the energy shortage, the demand for natural gas and coal has spiked as Beijing ordered energy companies to ensure sufficient supplies to avoid outages during winter, according to Reuters.
Over in Europe, the region is also grappling with its own power crisis with a massive gas crunch.
That confluence of crises resulting in a gas shortage is set to boost demand for oil, ahead of what’s expected to be a colder winter, analysts have warned.
— CNBC’s Sam Meredith and Chloe Taylor contributed to this report.