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Dan Yergin on oil prices falling despite tight supply, Russia tensions

Energy expert Dan Yergin said there are two reasons why oil prices have fallen in the last month despite a market that remains tight: the Fed and Russia’s war in Ukraine.

The price of oil has risen since last year, rising to peaks after Russia started an unprovoked war against Ukraine. But since the end of May, Brent has fallen from over $ 120 a barrel to the last trade of around $ 109, or around 10% lower. West Texas Intermediate futures fell more than 9% during the same period.

Yergin, deputy head of S&P Global, said the US Federal Reserve is choosing to go after inflation even at the risk of tipping the economy into a recession, and that is “what eases the way into oil prices.”[ads1];

On Wednesday, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell told lawmakers that the central bank is determined to bring down inflation, although he acknowledged that a recession could occur. Achieving a “soft landing”, where the policy is tightened without serious economic circumstances such as a recession, will be difficult, he said.

“The other side of it … is that Vladimir Putin has expanded the war from a battlefield war in Ukraine to an economic war in Europe, where he is trying to create difficulties that will break the coalition,” Yergin told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia” on Friday.

Russia has limited gas supplies to Europe via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline and reduced flows to Italy. Moscow has cut gas supplies to Finland, Poland, Bulgaria, Danish Orsted, the Dutch company GasTerra and energy giant Shell for their German contracts, all due to a gas-for-ruble payment dispute.

These actions have created fears of a difficult winter in Europe. The authorities in the region are now trying to fill underground storage facilities with natural gas supplies.

Questions about China’s raw demand

Yergin said that the demand outlook for China, the world’s largest oil consumer, is also uncertain.

China has slowly reopened parts of the country that were recently locked up due to peaks in Covid cases. It is unclear how quickly Chinese companies will be able to recover from these restrictions on economic activity.

Read more about energy from CNBC Pro

Many economists now expect a slow improvement going forward due to far more transferable variants, weaker growth and less government stimulus.

The extent of recovery and reopening will have an impact on oil demand, but that uncertainty has “held [oil] price from going higher, “said Yergin.

Will the supply recover?

Earlier this month, OPEC + agreed to increase production by 648,000 barrels per day in July, or 7% of global demand, and by the same amount in August. It is up from the original plan to add 432,000 bpd a month over three months until September.

“We believe OPEC + will then move to a more liberal approach and let the few members with spare capacity produce more,” said Edward Gardner, commodity economist at Capital Economics, in a Thursday note. He commented on OPEC +’s policy after it completed its pandemic-related supply cuts in September.

That could cause Brent prices to fall back to around $ 100 a barrel by the end of the year, he said.

But markets should not assume that supply will recover in line with this policy.

While the production quotas for OPEC + members have been gradually eased, most have not been able to increase production as quickly at the same time, Gardner said.

“Most other members do not have the capacity to increase production in the short term. If anything, we believe that some members, especially Angola and Nigeria, are likely to see lower production in the coming months, as years of underinvestment continue to plague production,” he wrote.

– CNBC’s Sam Meredith and Evelyn Cheng contributed to this report.

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