‘Wakey, wakey. We are not going back to normal business in a few months’: A top hedge-fund manager says crude oil prices could hit $250 this year

Energy industry experts are warning oil prices could double from current levels to $250 per barrel this year amid an ongoing international boycott of Russian energy supplies.

There simply aren’t sufficient supply alternatives available outside of Russia, according to Pierre Andurand, who runs Andurand Capital Management and is known as one of the top hedge fund managers in the energy sector.

“Wakey, wakey. We are not going back to normal business in a few months,” Andurand said on Wednesday at the FT’s Commodities Global Summit in Lausanne, Switzerland.

“I think we’re losing the Russian supply on the European side forever.”

The price of Brent crude oil, the international benchmark, rose as high as $139 per barrel after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine caused the six-largest disruption in oil’s supply since WWII.

And despite a subsequent pullback, prices have begun to climb again in the past week, rising nearly 20%. On Thursday, Brent crude was back to trading near $120 a barrel, as renewed fears of a disruption in energy supplies from Russia continue to shake the market.

Andurand isn’t the only top commodities expert predicting oil prices will soar to record highs.

Doug King, the chairman of RCMA’s Merchant Commodity Fund, said at the FT Commodities Global Summit this week that he also believes oil prices could move as high as $250 a barrel this year. “This is not transitory. This is going to be a crude supply shock,” he said.

Oil prices have experienced volatile trading since Russia invaded Ukraine, but things could get far worse if the E.U. decides to follow the U.S. in banning Russian oil imports. The E.U. buys roughly a quarter of its oil and more than 40% of its natural gas from Russia.

“Uncertainties about Russian oil inject volatility in oil trading,” Ipek Ozkardeskaya, senior analyst at the online bank Swissquote, told Fortune via email. “We see decent positive and negative swings, but the bulls have the upper hand. If Europe decides to walk away from the Russian oil, we will certainly see another leg up in oil prices.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to force "unfriendly" countries, including the U.S., E.U., U.K., and Japan, to settle energy transactions in rubles, rather than in U.S. dollars or euros, has also added to fears that Russia may be willing to retaliate for sanctions by restricting energy exports.

Russian authorities also closed an oil pipeline that carries over 1% of global oil demand on Wednesday, citing storm damage.

“If a weather-related ‘accident,’ it is certainly a convenient one from Moscow’s standpoint,” Bob McNally, head of consultancy Rapidan Energy Group, told the Financial Times on Wednesday.

Increasing tensions in the global energy market come as U.S. President Joe Biden is set to meet with European leaders on Thursday.

“Investors are expecting additional sanctions against Russia, along with a plan to reduce Europe’s reliance on Russian energy,” Mark Haefele, chief investment officer at UBS Global Wealth Management, said in a note to clients on Monday.

Disruptions in Russian energy exports due to further sanctions will only lead to rising prices, according to Ben Luckock, co-head of oil trading at the commodity trading firm Trafigura. That could mean devastating effects for developing nations.

“Whilst the U.S., western Europe and wealthier countries in the world will be able to afford some of these tax breaks, print some money … poorer nations won’t have the same toolbox,” Luckock said at the summit. “These are going to be the people who suffer first, and these are some of the unintended consequences of the policies that are likely to come.”

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