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Learning to live with sanctions: Russian oil flows in the face of sanctions

28 March 2024 Kpler

This is a summary created by Maritime Data from Kpler's recent special report: Learning to live with sanctions.

The landscape of Russian oil flows underwent a transformative shift in 2023, aligning with the introduction of the price cap, which redirected Russian crude oil predominantly towards Asia. The cessation of purchases by European countries paved the way for India to emerge as a leading buyer of Urals, with its intake increasing twelvefold from 2021 to 2022 and further soaring in 2023.

In a record-breaking year, Russia's seaborne flows expanded by 4%, averaging 3.504 million barrels per day (Mbd), marking the second highest pace after 2019. India's monumental rise as a purchaser was underscored by acquiring a variety of Russian crude grades, with Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) leading the charge. China remained a steadfast consumer, bolstered by pipeline deliveries and a notable 35% year-over-year increase in seaborne supplies.

Europe's diminishing role was highlighted by Bulgaria's transition away from Russian crude in early 2024, impacting the overall European intake. Exploration into new markets revealed Russia's engagement with countries like Indonesia, Pakistan, and Brazil, diversifying its export destinations.

Pipeline exports witnessed a decline, particularly through the Transneft system, with a 30% year-over-year drop to 1.1 Mbd. This reduction was partly compensated by increased interest from Central Asian nations, notably Uzbekistan, which saw a tripling of Russian oil imports in 2024.

Product flows were characterized by diesel/gasoil remaining the largest export stream, with Turkey and Brazil emerging as significant importers in the wake of the European Union's sanctions. Fuel oil exports shifted towards China and India, indicating a trend towards more sophisticated refining capabilities in these markets.

Overall, the year 2023 represented a pivotal period for Russian oil flows, characterized by adaptation to sanctions, exploration of new markets, and strategic redirection towards Asia. This shift not only reflects Russia's resilience but also the dynamic nature of global oil markets.


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