Waiting for a Saudi revolution before buying those $200 oil calls? It may be time to reevaluate: according to Nomura a halt in just Libyan and Algerian oil production (far more likely than the crisis spilling over to Saudi) would send oil to over $220/bbl. Specifically "the closest comparison to the current MENA unrest is the 1990-91 Gulf War. If Libya and Algeria were to halt oil production together, prices could peak above US$220/bbl and OPEC spare capacity will be reduced to 2.1mmbbl/d, similar to levels seen during the Gulf war and when prices hit US$147/bbl in 2008." Wouldn't a doubling in price lead to a major demand plunge as well? Yes it would "This could also result in a temporary demand destruction of some 2.0mmbbl/d globally." Also, since the Fed's free money was not flooding global market last time, $220 is just a lowball estimate: "We could be underestimating this as speculative activities were largely not present in 1990-91."
More observations from Nomura's Michael Lo:
In order to estimate the impact the current MENA crisis could have on oil supply and prices, we analysed past crises that rocked the region. There have been a few events that drove oil prices higher (from 30% to 130% per event), most of which were during the period in which OPEC controlled oil prices. However, we believe the closest comparison is the 1990-91 Gulf War as this is the only event outside of that period. During the seven months of Gulf War, prices jumped 130% as OPEC spare capacity was reduced to 1.8mmbbl/d while demand came off briefly by 1.7%. Similarly, today, if Libya and Algeria were to halt operations, OPEC spare capacity will also likely be drawn down to 2.1mmbbl/d, in our view, which could fuel higher oil prices.
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