Russia’s Crude Exports Shrug Off Halt to Key Pacific Grade
02.27.2024 By Tank Terminals - NEWS

February 27, 2024 [BNN Bloomberg]- A temporary halt in shipments of Russia’s Sokol crude from Sakhalin Island on the Pacific Coast was offset by a surge in flows of ESPO from nearby Kozmino, lifting four-week exports to the highest level in almost four months.

 

The jump in this less volatile measure of overall exports was boosted as a plunge seen in late January — driven by a storm that shut Kozmino and disruptions including a drone strike at the Baltic’s Ust-Luga terminal — finally dropped out of the calculation.

That unwinding saw four-week average shipments climb to the highest since the week ended Nov. 5, exceeding Bloomberg’s estimate of Moscow’s pledged export target by about 190,000 barrels a day. Weekly flows in the seven days to Feb. 22 rose by about 365,000 barrels a day to 3.5 million, some 215,000 barrels a day above target.

The temporary absence of Sokol cargoes stems from a lack of shuttle tankers needed to move the grade from the De Kastri export terminal amid issues with deliveries to Indian refiners. Moscow has struggled since December to get Sokol into India, the main market for the output of the Sakhalin 1 project, with the Asian nation’s refiners wary of US sanctions and complaining that the supplies are too expensive.

While three Sokol cargoes were delivered to India this month and several others have been diverted to China, at least 14 more — totaling about 10 million barrels — are still sitting on vessels. And all seven of the specialized vessels that haul the grade from the export terminal had cargoes on board last week, leaving none available to take on fresh shipments. The first to discharge in China last week has returned to De Kastri, where it began loading a new cargo on Tuesday morning; two more should reach the terminal late in the week.

Russia’s ability to ship its crude may be further hampered after the US Treasury slapped sanctions on 14 tankers owned by Sovcomflot, the Russian state tanker company. Earlier sanctions forced a chunk of the vast fleet of tankers that Russia uses to deliver its crude oil to grind to a halt.

Meanwhile, Russia’s oil-pipeline operator Transneft plans to construct three additional storage tanks at Kozmino as part of plans to boost shipments of ESPO, potentially diverting more crude away from the country’s western ports.

The gross value of Russia’s crude exports rebounded to a three-week high, rising to $1.73 billion in the seven days to Feb. 25 from $1.55 billion the previous week. Meanwhile four-week average income continued to rise, up by $115 million to $1.7 billion a week.

 

Flows by Destination

Russia’s seaborne crude flows in the four weeks to Feb. 25 jumped by about 200,000 barrels a day to 3.48 million barrels a day. Shipments were about 110,000 barrels a day below the average seen in May and June, or about 190,000 barrels a day above Russia’s first quarter target.

All figures exclude cargoes identified as Kazakhstan’s KEBCO grade. Those are shipments made by KazTransoil JSC that transit Russia for export through the Black Sea port of Novorossiysk and the Baltic’s Ust-Luga and are not subject to European Union sanctions or a price cap.

The Kazakh barrels are blended with crude of Russian origin to create a uniform export grade. Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Kazakhstan has rebranded its cargoes to distinguish them from those shipped by Russian companies.

 

Asia

Observed shipments to Russia’s Asian customers, including those showing no final destination, rose to a five-week high of 3.02 million barrels a day in the four weeks to Feb. 25, up from a revised 2.85 million in the previous four-week period.

About 1.45 million barrels a day of crude was loaded onto tankers heading to China. The Asian nation’s seaborne imports are boosted by about 800,000 barrels a day of crude delivered from Russia by pipeline, either directly, or via Kazakhstan.

Flows on ships signaling destinations in India averaged about 905,000 barrels a day.

Both the Chinese and Indian figures will rise as the discharge ports become clear for vessels that are not currently showing final destinations.

The equivalent of about 540,000 barrels a day was on vessels signaling Port Said or Suez in Egypt, or are expected to be transferred from one ship to another off the South Korean port of Yeosu. Those voyages typically end at ports in India or China and show up in the chart below as “Unknown Asia” until a final destination becomes apparent. This figure includes the Sokol crude still on shuttle tankers awaiting transfer to other vessels as well as the other stranded cargoes of the grade.

The “Other Unknown” volumes, running at about 130,000 barrels a day in the four weeks to Feb. 25, are those on tankers showing no clear destination. Most of those cargoes originate from Russia’s western ports and go on to transit the Suez Canal, but some could end up in Turkey. Others could be moved from one vessel to another, with most such transfers now taking place in the Mediterranean, off the coast of Greece.

 

Europe and Turkey

Russia’s seaborne crude exports to European countries have ceased.

With flows to Bulgaria halted at the end of last year, Turkey is now the only short-haul market for shipments from Russia’s western ports.

Exports to Turkey recovered to an 11-week high of about 417,000 barrels a day in the four weeks to Feb. 25. That’s the highest since the week ended Dec. 5 and up from a revised figure of about 390,000 barrels a day in the period to Feb. 18.

Vessel-tracking data are cross-checked against port agent reports as well as flows and ship movements reported by other information providers including Kpler and Vortexa Ltd.

 

Export Value

Following the abolition of export duty on Russian crude, we have begun to track the gross value of seaborne crude exports, using Argus Media price data and our own tanker tracking.

The gross value of Russia’s crude exports rebounded to a three-week high, rising to $1.73 billion in the seven days to Feb. 25 from $1.55 billion the previous week. Meanwhile four-week average income continued to rise, up by $115 million to $1.7 billion a week. The four-week average is still well off its peak of $2.17 billion a week, reached in the period to June 19, 2022. The highest it reached last year was $2 billion a week in the period to Oct. 22.

During the first four weeks after the Group of Seven nations’ price cap on Russian crude exports came into effect in early December 2022, the value of seaborne flows fell to a low of $930 million a week, but soon recovered.

The chart above shows a gross value of Russia’s seaborne oil exports on a weekly and four-week average basis. The value is calculated by multiplying the average weekly crude price from Argus Media Group by the weekly export flow from each port. For shipments from the Baltic and Arctic ports we use the Urals FOB Primorsk dated, London close, midpoint price. For shipments from the Black Sea we use the Urals Med Aframax FOB Novorossiysk dated, London close, midpoint price. For Pacific shipments we use the ESPO blend FOB Kozmino prompt, Singapore close, midpoint price.

Export duty was abolished at the end of 2023 as part of Russia’s long-running tax reform plans.

 

Ships Leaving Russian Ports

The following table shows the number of ships leaving each export terminal.

A total of 32 tankers loaded 24.5 million barrels of Russian crude in the week to Feb. 25, vessel-tracking data and port agent reports show. That was up by about 2.5 million barrels from the previous week.

Shipments from Russia’s Pacific terminal at Kozmino rebounded, offsetting the lack of any shipments from De Kastri.

All figures exclude cargoes identified as Kazakhstan’s KEBCO grade. One cargo of KEBCO was loaded at Novorossiysk during the week.

 

NOTES

Note: This story forms part of a weekly series tracking shipments of crude from Russian export terminals and the gross value of those flows. Weeks run from Monday to Sunday. The next update will be on Wednesday, March 6.

Note: All figures exclude cargoes owned by Kazakhstan’s KazTransOil JSC, which transit Russia and are shipped from Novorossiysk and Ust-Luga as KEBCO grade crude.

If you are reading this story on the Bloomberg terminal, click here for a link to a PDF file of four-week average flows from Russia to key destinations.

 

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