Oil prices dip into negative territory as market crashes

The US oil market witnessed history as the price dived under $0 a barrel for the first time as the coronavirus pandemic bites.

Sean Szymkowski
It all started with Gran Turismo. From those early PlayStation days, Sean was drawn to anything with four wheels. Prior to joining the Roadshow team, he was a freelance contributor for Motor Authority, The Car Connection and Green Car Reports. As for what's in the garage, Sean owns a 2016 Chevrolet SS, and yes, it has Holden badges.
Sean Szymkowski
2 min read
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Whoever would have guessed we'd see these kinds of prices?

Jose Luis Stephens/EyeEm/Getty Images

US oil prices crashed below $0 a barrel on Monday and spiraled into negative territory for the first time ever. In a historic crash, oil futures opened at their lowest level since 1983.

This past month, experts warned oil prices could dip into negative territory and the fears became reality for numerous companies ready to ship crude oil to refineries. Negative oil prices effectively mean companies have started paying customers to take the commodity off their hands. Why would this happen? We're running out of places to store oil as demand dries up amid the coronavirus pandemic and those fears finally bubbled to the surface on Monday.

With hundreds of millions of people around the world staying at home to stop the spread of COVID-19, travel by car or plane is nearly nonexistent. Factor in a major lag in manufacturing and other economic activity that requires oil and the reasons for the dramatic crash become apparent. For those still traveling, it's not uncommon to see gas prices under $1 per gallon at stations across the US these days, though it's left those businesses hurting.

"The oil market is experiencing the worst volatility we have seen in decades. This is a triple whammy caused by an oversupply of crude oil, low demand for fuels due to the COVID-19 lockdown, and a shortage of storage capacity," Eddie Habibi, CEO and founder of security firm PAS Global told Roadshow."

"Refineries and chemical plants are operating with minimal staff and relying on software companies like PAS Global to help them monitor and manage their mission-critical industrial control systems remotely -- to optimize process safety and protect against cyber attacks. Refineries and chemical plants produce much of the raw materials used in the production of personnel protective equipment (PPE) that healthcare workers and first responders need so urgently right now."

A previous crash came in March just as the coronavirus started to zap demand, but also as Saudi Arabia began dumping incredibly cheap oil on the market in a price war with Russia. While the OPEC Plus countries reached an agreement to slash production by more than 9 million barrels of oil per day, the latest crash shows it won't be enough to overcome the surplus of oil currently out there today.

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