Will we see oil at $100 a barrel again?

Bank of America thinks crude will hit $100 a barrel at some point the next five years as demand picks up.

Brent crude has gained 23% to around $64 a barrel this year. Its gains have already surpassed the most bullish of forecasts, says Avi Salzman for Barron’s. Bank of America thinks crude will hit $100 a barrel “from time to time” over the next five years. Before 2014 crude regularly traded above $100. That era ended when US shale drillers began to pour millions of new barrels onto global markets.

There are two key factors currently capping oil below $100 a barrel. First, energy cartel Opec and ally Russia are currently withholding about seven million barrels per day (mbpd) of production to prop up prices; economic recovery this year will cause them to turn on the taps and flood the market. Second, the green-energy transition means that some analysts think the world may already have passed peak oil demand. The energy transition is “real” and welcome, but things are moving “glacially”, says Dylan Grice on themarket.ch. Bloomberg projects that electric vehicles “will only make up around 8% of the total fleet of passenger cars by 2030... The oil market will continue to play a central role” for decades.

A serious price spike could finish off crude sooner than that, reckons Ambrose Evans-Pritchard in The Daily Telegraph. Low prices and the rise of environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing have sent investment in new oil capacity plummeting: annual non-Opec investment is running at just 35% of pre-2014 levels – far too little to meet global demand. 

As demand picks up over the next five years, that could send prices going as high as $150 a barrel. Above $100, oil becomes pricier than already existing green alternatives, delivering the coup de grâce to oil and sending producers spiralling. Paradoxically, the “greatest threat to Saudi Arabia and Russia over the next five years is a roaring bull market for crude oil”.

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