Oil trading profits soar for energy majors who made storage bets

Major oil companies including Equinor, Shell and commodity trader Glencore make sky-high profits from so-called contango plays following the oil price collapse.

Photo: Dronebase Dronebase/Reuters/Ritzau Scanpix

In March and April, as oil prices plunged to their lowest in a generation, Norwegian energy giant Equinor ASA was busy doing the opposite of what oil companies usually do: pumping as much crude as possible underground into giant caverns on the nation’s North Sea coast.

Equinor also filled oil tankers with crude, turning them into floating storage facilities, and put even more barrels into onshore tanks elsewhere. Its traders were trying to soften the blow of rock-bottom prices by buying cheap crude, storing it, and simultaneously selling it on the forward market at higher prices.

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