It appears Russia is close to taking the next big step towards de-dollarization and killing the petro-dollar as Vladimir Putin’s “dream” of ruble-based pricing of its domestically-produced oil is on the verge of realization. SPIMEX (The St. Petersburg International Mercantile Exchange) is actively courting international oil traders to join its emerging futures market, which as Bloomberg reports, is designed “to create a system where Russian oil is priced and traded in a fair and straightforward way.”
Step-by-step Russia, China and other emerging economies are taking measures to reduce their dependence on the US dollar, and as SputnikNews detailed, F. William Engdahl warns – referring to Russia’s crude oil benchmark initiative – this move could deal a dramatic blow to the “petrodollar’s” dominance.
Russia has taken a significant step which will undermine the current Wall Street oil price monopoly: Russia’s own crude oil benchmark futures contract will price oil in rubles and no longer in US dollars, American-German researcher, historian and strategic risk consultant F. William Engdahl remarks.
“The move is part of a longer-term strategy of decoupling Russia’s economy and especially its very significant export of oil, from the US dollar, today the Achilles Heel of the Russian economy… It is part of a de-dollarization move that Russia, China and a growing number of other countries have quietly begun,” the American researcher writes in his recent article for New Eastern Outlook.
He explains that the setting of an oil benchmark price is a cornerstone of the method used by omnipotent Wall Street bankers to control world oil prices. “Oil is the world’s largest commodity in dollar terms,” the historian stresses.
Engdahl focuses attention on the fact that the sale of oil denominated in US dollars is essential for the support of the American currency’s leading role. Indeed, the US dollar’s status as world’s major reserve currency is one of two pillars of Washington’s hegemony since the end of the Second World War (the other one is the US military supremacy), the historian emphasizes.
“Today, prices for Russian oil exports are set according to the Brent price in as traded London and New York. With the launch of Russia’s benchmark trading, that is due to change, likely very dramatically. The new contract for Russian crude in rubles, not dollars, will trade on the St. Petersburg International Mercantile Exchange (SPIMEX).”
And, as Bloomberg reports, it appears that day is getting close…
The nation’s largest commodity exchange, whose chairman is Putin ally Igor Sechin, is courting international oil traders to join its emerging futures market. The goal is to increase revenue from Urals crude by disconnecting the price-setting mechanism from the world’s most-used Brent oil benchmark. Another aim is to move away from quoting petroleum in U.S. dollars.
If Russia is going to attract international participation in Russian-based pricing, the Kremlin will need to persuade traders it’s not simply trying to push prices up, some energy analysts said. The government is dependent on oil revenue to fund its budgets.
“The goal is to create a system where Russian oil is priced and traded in a fair and straightforward way,” said Alexei Rybnikov, president of the St. Petersburg International Mercantile Exchange, or Spimex, in a phone interview.
Russia, which exports about half its crude, has long complained about the size of the discounts for lower quality Urals oil compared to North Sea Brent prices, which are assessed by the Platts agency. With world oil prices down by half in the past two years and Russia facing the prospect of its worst budget deficit as a percentage of its economic output since 2010, it needs every dollar of petroleum revenue it can get. Having its own futures market would improve Russian oil price discovery as well as help domestic companies generate extra revenue from trading, said Rybnikov.
Not everyone is excited about the prospect of a Russia-controlled oil benchmark, as one can well imagine…
“The reality is that the Kremlin is always likely to be heavily involved in the Russian oil industry,” said Richard Mallinson, an analyst at Energy Aspects Ltd. “That creates the concern that the proposals might be structured to try to achieve higher prices, which is not consistent with efficient price discovery.”
Moscow is not alone in its push to change global oil pricing. China, which vies with the U.S. as the world’s biggest crude importer, has spent two decades trying to introduce its own oil futures contact, now expected this year. Iran and Venezuela, members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, have called for trading oil in other currencies than U.S. dollars.
The Kremlin plan echoes the New York Mercantile Exchange’s efforts to offer Russian export oil futures in late 2006. Nymex, now part of CME Group Inc., discontinued the contract six years later because it wasn’t popular among traders, JBC Energy GmbH said.
“Some market participants might be wary of embracing the new futures contracts as a benchmark due to concerns about the Russian government’s high degree of involvement in the oil sector,” said Eugene Lindell an analyst at Vienna-based JBC. “It remains questionable as to what extent Spimex can provide a better overall trading framework.”
* * *