Submitted by Dave Forest via OilPrice.com, Russia is looking to expand its influence through oil trade. And a little-reported deal this week may give it access to an entirely new part of the planet when it comes to crude exports. That's the Persian Gulf. Where reports suggest Russia is close to negotiating a "secret passage" for its oil shipments.
The flow of international trade has always been subject to geopolitical risk and conflicts. At all stages of the supply chain, trade inherently faces challenges posed by the geopolitical realities along a given route.
Some routes are more perilous and harder to navigate than others. One such trade route is the maritime path for transporting oil from Persian Gulf exporters to East Asian consumers. This route faces two major choke points that are unavoidable given geographic constraints.
Middle East oil exporters are locked in an increasingly fierce battle for the world’s fastest-growing markets in Asia, as producers worldwide ship more crude east to compensate for shrinking demand from the United States and Europe.
The fight for the trillion-dollar Asian oil market has ended decades of comfortable dominance for Middle East producers, who faced so little competition that refiners in Asia complained of being charged a premium of a dollar or so per barrel above what buyers in Europe or the Americas paid.
Oil prices enjoyed a bump last week, thanks in part to a weakened dollar and some geopolitical tensions in the Persian Gulf. But a large factor in the recent rally has been the return of a possible OPEC production freeze, a subject that was last tossed around before the organization’s much-publicized, and ultimately unproductive, meeting in Doha last April.
Indian refiners are ready to start transferring cash owed for Iranian oil as early as next week following a landmark deal to curb Tehran’s nuclear program that allows importers to shift billions of dollars back to Iran.
Saudi Oil Minister Khalid Al-Falih emerged from the OPEC meeting room on Saturday evening having endured months of secret petro-diplomacy, late-night phone calls and, a few times, disagreements that almost saw talks collapse. But he was still smiling.