Heres what sparked the latest talk over $100 oil prices

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A rise in oil prices to $100 a barrel isnt likely anytime soon, analysts say, but traders still are placing bets on a price spike that tallies as much as 30% by the end of 2022.

There is a belief that demand will outstrip supply in 2022, with limited production increases among U.S. producers, as well as limited investment in longer-term oil plays, spurring projections for triple-digit prices, says Regina Mayor, global energy leader at KPMG.

The December 2022 West Texas Intermediate contract witha $100 strike priceon Nymex has thehighest open interestamong the WTI call options, according to data from QuikStrike on the CME Group
website. The call options give the buyer a right, but not the obligation, to buy underlying oil futures at a set price.

These call contracts arent necessarily bets that oil will actually hit $100 a barrel, but more of a wager on volatility and a continued increase in price, says Mayor. WTI, the U.S. benchmark, hasnt touched $100 since 2014.

Mayor said its highly unlikely oil will hit that level this year or next. There is still too much supply and while demand is surging, it is still several million barrels short of pre-pandemic levels. Most analysts dont expect a return to 2019 demand levels until 2022, which could be part of what traders are banking on, she says.

There is still too much [oil] supply and while demand is surging, it is still several million barrels short of pre-pandemic levels.

Regina Mayor, KPMG

With prices of oil

at $69.96 a barrel on June 9, a climb to triple-digit WTI prices would mark an ambitious leap from just 14 months ago when prices settled ata negative level.

The $100-a-barrel calls in WTI and Brent options markets are lottery tickets, which would require a major demand surge or supply shockor bothto go into the money, says Bob Ryan, chief commodity and energy strategist at BCA Research. In the money refers to a call option with a strike price thats less than the market value of the commodity, producing a profit if exercised.

Ryan says the odds of that happening by the end of next year is low at about 15% to 20%but not trivial, and price spikes along the way are not out of the question.

Besides, oil wouldnt need to climb to more than $100 for traders to make a profit. A rally for oil would increase the value of the premium for the call options, allowing buyers of those options to lock in some profit, said Phil Flynn, senior market analyst at The Price Futures Group.

Prices are expected to see a gradual increase going forward. In 2022, BCA Research expects Brent crude

to average $73, with WTI trading around $70 to $71, says Ryan. It also sees Brent averaging $78 in 2023.

Beyond that, the odds of seeing prices move toward $100 or higher increase as declines in capital expenditures since 2014, the last year the industry saw major capex allocations, leave markets unprepared for any demand increase, says Ryan.

By then, markets could be confronting the same supply constraints last seen in the early 2000s, when the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and non-OPEC oil producers cut capex in the wake of a price collapse that saw imported oil trading just above $10 by the end of the 1990s.

Prices climbed to a record high above $145 in 2008.

The Price Futures Groups Flynn sees a rise to $100 by 2022 as possible, but it would take an event to get there.

More likely, oil may reach $100 in a few years, as climate concerns and the rush to transition from fossil fuels will make oil very expensive, he says. The options markets are an early sign of what may come, and if those bets are right, it could be sooner rather than later.


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