Crude oil prices expected to fall in 2020 H1, rise through 2021

EIA expects that crude oil prices will remain elevated in the first few months of 2020, on a crude oil price premium from recent geopolitical events.

According to the EIA, market fundamentals will drive oil prices in the second half of 2020 and in 2021. Syncrude photo.

By Matt French

This article was published by the US Energy Information Administration on Jan. 21, 2020.

In the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) January Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO), EIA forecasts that the Brent crude oil spot price will average $65 per barrel (b) in 2020 and $68/b in 2021 and that the West Texas Intermediate (WTI) spot price will average $59/b in 2020 and $62/b in 2021.

EIA expects that crude oil prices will remain elevated in the first few months of 2020, reflecting a price premium on crude oil from recent geopolitical events. However, this price premium will diminish in the first half of 2020, and market fundamentals will drive the crude oil price forecast in the second half of 2020 and in 2021.

West Texas Intermediate and Brent crude oil prices
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Short-Term Energy Outlook, January 2020

Several geopolitical events have provided upward pressure on crude oil prices in recent months. These events include attacks on oil tankers transiting the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea, the September 2019 attack on Saudi Arabia’s energy infrastructure, and recent tensions between the United States and Iran. Monthly average Brent prices rose from $63/b in September to $67/b in December. Crude oil prices increased during this period despite global liquid fuels inventories growing by 130,000 barrels per day (b/d).

Further increasing the geopolitical risk premium on global oil prices, the U.S. military action in Iraq in January 2020 increased uncertainty about potential disruptions to oil production and shipping in the Middle East. Following these developments, the price of Brent crude oil reached $70/b, but prices have subsequently fallen.

As the risk premium decreases, EIA assumes that Brent prices will decline in early 2020 to an average of $62/b in May. EIA does not forecast supply disruptions, and any physical supply disruptions would put upward pressure on prices.

More information on EIA’s short-term crude oil price projections is available in the STEO.

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