The Newer World Oil Order

U.S. sanctions on Venezuela are supporting prices but not getting us a real bounce on hopes that the Maduro regime will fall quickly. Still, the loss of 500,000 barrels of heavy crude, if extending over a long period of time, could create a major upside price risk for oil products. This comes as the world is going to face growing tightness of distillate fuel due to new regulations that the Energy Information Administration warns will affect global oil markets.

The EIA writes that International regulations limiting sulfur in fuels for ocean-going vessels, set to take effect in January 2020, have implications for vessel operators, refiners, and global oil markets. Stakeholders will respond to these regulations in different ways, increasing uncertainty for crude oil and petroleum product price formation in both the short and long term.

The reason for the rules is because that when burned, the sulfur in marine fuel produces sulfur dioxide, a precursor to acid rain. The sulfur content of transportation fuels has been declining for many years because of increasingly stringent regulations implemented by individual countries or groups of countries. In the United States, federal and state regulations limit the amount of sulfur present in motor gasoline, diesel fuel, and heating oil. The upcoming 2020 rules apply across multiple countries’ jurisdictions to fuels used in the open ocean, representing the largest portion of the approximately 3.9 million barrel per day global marine fuel market, according to the International Energy Agency.

The International Maritime Organization (IMO), the 171-member state United Nations agency that sets standards for shipping, is set to reduce the maximum amount of sulfur content (by percent weight) in marine fuels used on the open seas from 3.5% to 0.5% by 2020. These regulations are intended to reduce sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and other pollutants from global ship exhaust. The 2020 reduction in sulfur limits follows a series of similar reductions in marine fuel sulfur limits, such as those that reduced sulfur content of marine fuels in IMO-designated Emission Control Areas from 1.0% to 0.1% in 2015. Other areas around ports in Europe and parts of China have adopted similar sulfur restrictions.

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