This area in turmoil could push oil as high as $80 a barrel — a 60% jump — within months, RBC's Croft says

Oil hasn't traded above $70 a barrel in nearly three years, but that could soon change.

RBC Capital Markets' Helima Croft says there's a very high probability Venezuela's state oil company will default and bring about a steep jump in crude prices.

"I think that's going to be the biggest geopolitical story to watch in the oil markets," said Croft, who's the firm's global head of commodity strategy, on Tuesday's "Trading Nation." "The question is how fast does Venezuela fail?"

According to Croft, it could be the catalyst to push oil prices to $70 to $80 a barrel by fall.

It has been years since crude has traded above the $70 a barrel mark. It hasn't happened since near the end of 2014. On Tuesday, oil settled down 2 percent at $49.16 a barrel.

"The thing is Venezuela has no capacity to overproduce at this point. Their oil production is going in one direction and that is down," she said.

The Trump administration imposed sanctions on Venezuela, one of the world's top crude producers, on Monday as political turmoil continued to cause chaos and the country runs out of cash.

"The national oil company owes $3.5 billion due in October-November. They are unlikely to make those payments," Croft added. "Venezuela has less than $10 billion now in reserves, and then have $5 billion in debt payments coming due this year. ... We really do think a disorderly default is on the cards for Venezuela."

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Michael Santoli

Michael Santoli joined CNBC in October 2015 as a Senior Markets Commentator, based at the network's Global Headquarters in Englewood Cliffs, N.J.  Santoli brings his extensive markets expertise to CNBC's Business Day programming, with a regular appearance on CNBC's “Closing Bell (M-F, 3PM-5PM ET).   In addition, he contributes to CNBCand CNBC PRO, writing regular articles and creating original digital videos.

Previously, Santoli was a Senior Columnist at Yahoo Finance, where he wrote analysis and commentary on the stock market, corporate news and the economy. He also appeared on Yahoo Finance video programs, where he offered insights on the most important business stories of the day, and was a regular contributor to CNBC and other networks.

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