The catastrophic collapse of the US crude benchmark on Monday to minus $37.63 per barrel easily earns it the title as the Mother of All Oil Crashes.
No other event comes even remotely close, highlighting a double whammy of the Covid-19 pandemic and the cascading supplies that were unleashed by Saudi Arabia's short but catastrophic price war against Russia in early March.
The oil deluge and inevitable price plunge has been of biblical proportions, crowning a series of events that will haunt traders and oil-producing nations for a long time to come.
The last time US oil neared negative territory was in 1931 when a growing glut fuelled by the Great Depression sent prices tumbling to just 13 cents per barrel.
Such parallels are misleading because supplies and demand are so much higher now than in 1931 and crude sales have a much more global reach.
Global oil consumption was running at around 100 million barrels per day before the impact of the coronavirus outbreak began manifesting itself in January.
Demand has now collapsed by almost 30% because of shuttered economies and severe restrictions on the movement of people, planes, aircraft and vehicles around the globe.
Looking back, a gradual price weakness followed the discovery of supergiant fields in Iran and Saudi Arabia in the 1950s and 1960s without leading to any spectacular crash.
The emergence of the North Sea, the Gulf of Mexico, Alaska, and the Soviet Union as rival producers to Opec — combined with increased energy efficiency and the wider use of natural gas in the 1980s — prompted Saudi Arabia to embark on the first of a series of price wars for market share.
Then, as now, the Opec swing producer had had enough of bearing the burden of market management while other members kept pumping at capacity.
The Saudi ruler at the time, King Fahd, called Opec to a meeting in the Saudi city of Taif in June 1985 to warn against overproduction. The warning was not heeded, forcing Riyadh in November of that year to flood the market with cheap oil.
Prices plunged from $31 per barrel to $9.75 in six months. The price war lasted until December 1986. A long truce followed until Saudi Arabia — angered by repeated quota busting by Venezuela — decided at a meeting in Jakarta in November 1997 to boost output to regain market share in the lucrative US market from the Latin American producer.
That decision also proved to be a disaster, coinciding with the emerging markets crisis and a warm winter.
Oil prices plunged from about $20 per barrel to as low as $8 per barrel by early 1999, threatening Opec’s existence.
The market share battle went on until April 1999 when output discipline was reimposed.
A gradual recovery followed, fuelled by both Opec output cuts and robust global economic growth, which sent Brent soaring to a record peak of $141.71 per barrel on 27 June 2008.
Oil then started to head south with a deepening global economic recession.
While Saudi Arabia and its allies helped market stability through output curbs, outside producers were the main beneficiaries.
Once again Saudi Arabia decided enough was enough, embarking on a pump-at-will policy at a meeting in November 2014 in Vienna. Oil collapsed from about $100 per barrel to $27.88.
Peace did not come until September 2016 when Riyadh opted for a U-turn. Russia agreed to join in the efforts to prop up the oil market, resulting in a production restraint pact that fell apart on 7 March this year.
The latest price war quickly proved to be the most brutal because of the colossal demand destruction caused by Covid-19.
The resulting disastrous market rout forced Saudi Arabia and Russia to bury the hatchet, leading other producers in their Opec+ alliance to agree to historic production cuts of almost 10 million bpd on 12 April in the hope of regaining control.