Oil prices increased Friday as U.S. sanctions against Iran threatened to remove a substantial volume of crude oil from world markets at a time of rising global demand.
U.S. crude rose 69 cents a barrel to $74.14 by 10:49 a.m. EDT [1449 GMT], and earlier touched $74.37, the highest since Nov. 26, 2014. The contract was on track to close the week up 8 percent.
Benchmark Brent crude LCOc1 jumped $1.49 to a high of $79.35 a barrel before easing back to $79.23 a barrel. The contract was on track to close the week up 4.8 percent.
“All the potential shortfalls could outstrip the production increase agreed to by OPEC and Russia,” said Dominick Chirichella, Director of Risk Management at EMI DTN. There’s a risk that supplies from Iran could be cut further as there’s pressure on other countries to join the United States in sanctions, he said.
Iran is the fifth-largest oil producer in the world, pumping about 4.7 million barrels per day (bpd), or almost 5 percent of total output, much of it to China and other energy-hungry nations such as India.
The U.S. government wants to stop Tehran exporting oil to cut off a vital supply of finance, and hopes other big oil producers in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and Russia will make up for the deficit.
But the world oil market is already tight with unplanned disruptions in Canada, Libya and Venezuela removing supply.
Many analysts and investors think strict enforcement of U.S. sanctions against Iran will push up prices sharply.
“It is becoming increasingly clear that Saudi Arabia and Russia will struggle to compensate for potential losses in oil production from the likes of Venezuela, Iran and Libya,” said Abhishek Kumar, analyst at Interfax Energy in London.
Vienna-based consultancy JBC Energy said the stronger the implementation and enforcement of U.S. sanctions, the higher the oil price will go. “Triple-digit oil prices are not off the table,” JBC said.
A Reuters survey of 35 economists and analysts on Friday forecast Brent would average $72.58 a barrel in 2018, 90 cents higher than the $71.68 forecast in last month’s poll and compared with the $71.15 average so far this year.