Washington — The unprecedented attacks on Saudi oil facilities over the weekend are widely viewed by analysts as the most significant supply disruption the oil market has ever seen, increasing the geopolitical risk premium in prices. But opinions vary on just how much it has or will increase.
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Much of the debate centers on whether the market has already priced in the risk or most traders are simply awaiting another substantial near-term disruption, an outcome analysts view as almost inevitable. Analysts told S&P Global Platts Thursday that they view the attacks, which disrupted nearly 6% of global oil supply, as only the latest supply disruptions in the Middle East as tensions between the US and Iran ratchet up.
"While I think it is hard to say at the moment how much of a premium is priced in, no matter what it is currently, it will go higher in the following weeks," said Allyson Cutright, director of global oil service at Rapidan Energy Group.
Rapidan anticipates that a $10/b risk premium will persist following the repairs to the 7 million b/d Abqaiq crude processing facility. And, analysts said, that premium will only build if Saudi claims that it can return output back to normal by month's end prove overly ambitious.
Rachel Ziemba, an adjunct senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, views a $5-$10/b persistent risk premium following the Saudi attacks as an upper estimate, but said it is likely too early to assess.
"I think it will take some time for it to become clear what that risk premium will be, and it will be closely tied to the changes in spare capacity," Ziemba said. "That said, even though Saudis are likely to deliver all the contracted oil volumes, the event has opened up the plausible possibility of outages."
There is also a view that the impact on prices was relatively modest, considering the scale of the attacks on global supply. The increase in oil prices Monday was only the fourth-largest relative daily movement in Brent prices since the contract began 32 years ago, according to a Center for Strategic & International Studies analysis.
ICE front-month Brent settled at $64.40/b Thursday, up 80 cents from Wednesday and $4.18 from Friday's settlement, which was the last before Saturday's attacks. NYMEX front-month crude settled at $58.13/b Thursday, up 2 cents from Wednesday and $3.28 from Friday's close.
Frank Verrastro, a senior vice president with CSIS, said that outages in Nigeria and Iraq are adding to the skepticism over Saudi output restoration efforts and the likelihood that another attack on supply could be imminent.
Paul Sheldon, chief geopolitical adviser with S&P Global Platts Analytics, said that "more disruptive incidents are likely as long as sanctions on Iran remain intact."
Platts Analytics forecasts that a $5-$10/b premium could potentially be added to oil prices because of the increased risk to supply throughout the Middle East and the sudden elimination of spare capacity.
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