You Heard the Ruble Is Tanking? The US Dollar Is in Freefall vs Russia’s Real Currency

Crude at $110 and climbing

3-month oil price chart:

From $66 to $110 in ninety days.

How was the energy market before the invasion?

Prices were already high because the market is very tight right now. The countries in the Opec+ world oil cartel couldn’t even produce enough oil to meet their quotas, and this wasn’t necessarily deliberate. We had an almost unexpectedly good rebound in demand after COVID, which created a lot of pent up demand. The key was probably all the economic stimulus from governments and central banks.

How important is Russia to the global oil and gas market?

It’s one of the biggest oil producers in the world, producing over 10 million barrels of oil and condensate each day, of which about 7.5 million, including refined oil products, are exported. Crude oil exports are about 4.5 million barrels, of which at least two-thirds goes west, mainly to Europe. The remainder of Russian oil exports are products like diesel, petrol or naptha, and again much of that goes to the west. In all, Russia satisfies around a tenth of world oil demand, so it’s huge.

For natural gas, Russia is second only to the US, producing some 1.7 billion cubic metres each day compared to 2.5 billion from the US. Overall, in terms of Russia’s energy revenues, about four-fifths comes from oil and the rest from gas. About 40% of Europe’s gas imports come from Russia.

How do you think Russian oil and gas exports will be affected by the war?

The severity of this attack and impact on global politics is such that I can’t see any sanctions working unless they include energy restrictions, and denying Russia access to the international Swift system which handles payments between banks.

Russia’s oil normally trades at a discount of about US$1-US$1.50 per barrel to North Sea Brent crude, but this has currently widened substantially to about US$10 because people are worried that there may be issues with payments. At the same time, shipping owners are avoiding Russian ports, freight rates involving Russia have gone up, and so have insurance rates for consignments. With around two-thirds of Russian crude and products moving by ships rather than pipes, this means it’s only a matter of time before you may start to lose Russian oil from the market.

I am therefore actually hugely surprised that oil prices haven’t gone much higher. I would have expected US$120 or US$130 quite easily. It’s true that the geopolitical risks of a war in Ukraine were probably to some extent “priced in” to the oil price – before the invasion, I might have said they made up US$10 of the price. But with the Russians going all in to topple the Ukrainian government, I can only see things getting more complicated in the energy market, meaning prices rising much higher.

Shutting off Russian gas is a more difficult calculation because Europe relies on it so much, but ultimately if I’m right about Russia losing access to Swift, it may happen. And to be clear, it’s not that there isn’t enough gas on the market – Qatar can easily meet Europe’s gas requirement at the expense of other customers – it’s just that prices would have to rise accordingly. [Yeah, you would have to outbid the East Asians. Happy bidding war!]

Who stands to be affected by restricted supplies?

Big importers of Russian crude, such as Dutch and UK refineries, can switch to other blends, but it’s less easy for, say, Mediterranean refineries, particularly Italy. They are configured for grades such as Urals light along with Iranian light and Arabian light. They have already lost Iranian light because of sanctions and so losing Russian crude would be an additional problem.

Equally affected will be inland refineries in countries like Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic. They were literally built on pipelines from Russia, so don’t have much storage capacity. They do also receive oil from pipelines from places such as Wilhelmshaven, Rotterdam and Antwerp, but the potential loss of Russian crude for them would still be serious. When refineries do not refine, they lose money and the price of products such as petrol (gasoline) and diesel goes up for all of us.

To help keep refineries like these functioning, it would make a lot of sense for Joe Biden to lift the Iran sanctions to loosen up the market a bit. Although Iranian production wouldn’t increase right away, they have some 80 million barrels of oil sitting in ships, which could make a big difference to the market.

Besides Russian crude, the loss of oil products would also be very painful for certain customers. Together with the UK and France, Germany is a big buyer of Russian diesel. A lot of heavy fuel oil actually goes to the US for blending into lighter types of domestic oil, as a substitute for the loss of Venezuelan imports due to sanctions. There’s also lots of Russian product (so-called components such as naphtha) blended into petrol and sold on to the Americas.

Many western companies such as Vitol, Glencore, Trafigura as well as the trading arms of BP, Total and Shell, are heavily involved in trading Russian crude and products. The system is such that a lot of Russian oil is prepaid (paid before delivery). So restricting oil supplies may hurt companies like these (or at least the banks behind the deals) a few months before it starts to hurt the Russians.

Source: The Conversation


The Biden administration has asked Saudi Arabia to increase production to keep prices low, but there is little indication so far that the message is changing the kingdom’s strategy.

In addition, analysts are skeptical that most OPEC members can even increase production, because they haven’t been spending enough money on finding new reserves or expanding current projects.

“A number of OPEC producers are simply tapped out,” said RBC Capital Markets analyst Helima Croft.

A report from OPEC’s Joint Technical Committee said that OPEC+ had fallen short of its production allocation by 972,000 daily barrels as of January, according to Reuters. That production shortfall makes it clear that OPEC is probably not coming to the rescue of the market by adding to supply.

“They have miraculously turned a market control system meant to control prices from a bearish situation into a bullish price situation,” said Robert Yawger, director of energy futures at Mizuho Securities.

  1. Ilya G Poimandres says

    I lost money when NATO started bombing Libya, as a local oil futures trader… Don’t try and guess it. Most these events mean little to it – so many outs for even a WTI without pipeline.

    Russia is fine with medium quality oil far away – damn near-savages travelled thousands of km for flint millennia ago!

    1. Hungary Guy says

      Yep, there could be rippling Turmoil out of this.
      And then both side would have only on Option- unless ready to have a life like in Somalia+ Mad Max- > Red Button

      1. Jerôme says

        Magyar, enjoy Orban 5x times cheaper oil and gas from Russia!!!

  2. guest says

    Then, it is high-time to buy Russian rubel. If it does anything, it will do better than silver.

    (of course, the problem with these professional financial experts is that they never make money in the real market. they are only good at class-room models. which one of them has ever managed profitably even a lemonade-stand ? if they really knew something about the market, they would be oligarchs, not class-room theologians)

  3. XSFRGR says

    Basically the ruble is traded only in Russia/China so it makes very little difference how the ruble relates to the U$ dollar. If the EU isn’t happy about how Russia trades oil then China has already agreed to purchase said oil in………guess what ???????RUBLES or yuan. People need to understand that one of the main purposes of this war is for Russia/China to decouple from the West. Once Russia/China are rid of the West Russia/China will prosper, and the U$/EU will starve in the dark. Clear your mind, and think about it.

  4. Jerôme says

    The Russian sale of oil and gas is mostly to China, and Russia do not need sale it to the vassals in the EU Gulag….400billion dollars deal with China secured Russia before any zio+nazi sanctions from USrael+ vassal EU Gulag…

  5. Chacko Kurian says

    Pity the western world does not realise they will be paying dearly for the sanctions. Not just oil and energy prices will rise steeply but also wheat, fertiliser etc. Whilst their leaders remain well fed and warm or cool, their citizens will pay the price. Maybe the US dollar has seen it’s last days.

  6. GMC says

    Funny, that when the USA goes to war 5000 miles from their border, the Dollar strengthens against all the other world currencies, but when Russia tries to liberate its borders , the Rubles falls down dramatically. It’s called Manipulation of currencies and the financial Cartels need to be dismantled or renovated for the good of all countries.

  7. wayne says

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