Commodity brokers call it a "contango"—a situation where the current price of a commodity is lower than prices for future delivery—and it could make a lot of money for traders who can find somewhere to store huge amounts of oil. The recent plunge in oil prices has caused a scramble for storage space, and traders are increasingly turning to offshore supertankers for storage as sites on land fill up, reports the Wall Street Journal. Analysts say that major traders have now chartered tankers capable of holding more than 30 million barrels of oil, and they're expected to remain anchored for around a year.
Floating storage carried more than 70 million barrels of oil after the oil price collapsed in 2009, although the Globe and Mail notes that some traders were in for a "crude awakening" after a surge in US shale output meant consumption from the Middle East didn't rise when the economy recovered. "If people think the contango is some kind of magical way to make money, they are incorrect," an analyst at Mercuria Energy Group tells the Journal. "Storing big quantities of crude oil is not an easy game. It's not a game at all." (Read more oil prices stories.)