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Majors Scale Back Purchases of Russian Crude

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BP, Shell and Equinor say they are scaling back their purchases of Russian oil, just days after announcing plans to exit the country or slash their footprint there in response to the invasion of Ukraine.

Meanwhile, some Russian producers have canceled crude tenders because of a lack of bidders, and have started talks with pipeline operator Transneft about storing some of their surplus oil in its system, market sources say.

Although big integrated oil companies like BP and Shell are not prolific buyers of Russian crude and products, their withdrawal from the market could lead to a further reduction in Russia's exports.

Energy Intelligence estimates that the country's combined exports of crude and products fell by about 2.5 million barrels per day or one-third since President Vladimir Putin sent troops into Ukraine.

Shell said it had already "stopped most activities involving Russian oil," but was still making some essential purchases of crude and products to run in its refineries and chemical plants.

The company said it would cut back volumes further "as alternative crudes become available to buy." But it admitted that this would be "highly complex" due to the tightness of the market and the lack of alternatives.

Traders said Shell bought a 100,000 ton cargo of Russian Urals crude this week, to be loaded at one of the country's Baltic Sea ports in mid-March. The deal was done at a huge discount of $28.50 per barrel to dated Brent, they said.

BP — a regular lifter of Russian barrels in recent years — said it won't enter into any new business, contracts or agreements with Russian counterparties, nor will it use Russian ports or charter Russian-owned, operated or flagged vessels.

However, it said there might be exceptions to that general rule "if critical for ensuring security of supply."

The UK major recently announced that it would exit Russia and planned to sell its 19.75% stake in the country's biggest oil producer, Rosneft.

Equinor

Equinor — which lifts less Russian oil than BP or Shell — said it would "not take any new positions with Russian companies or trade in or transport molecules of Russian origin, beyond fulfilling existing commitments."

The company had been buying barrels from one of Russia's largest producers, Surgutneftegas, on a regular basis.

Among other majors, TotalEnergies, Exxon Mobil and Eni continue to lift Russian crude.

Total has also said it plans to keep its 19.4% stake in Russia's largest independent gas and LNG producer Novatek.

Big privately-held international trading firms like Vitol, Trafigura and Gunvor continue to lift Russian barrels as before.

Market sources say crude buyers in Europe and in Asia have become reluctant to take Russian cargoes because of the risks and uncertainty created by sanctions and other restrictions that the US, EU and others have imposed on Russia.

Sources say further disruptions in flows of Russian crude are expected later this month, and in April, even though pipeline and terminal operator Transneft says loadings from all Russian ports are running smoothly.

Producers have been struggling to place their oil in the market, with Zarubezhneft canceling a tender on Friday for 600,000 tons of Urals crude to be lifted from the Baltic Sea port of Primorsk in April-June.

Surgutneftegas had previously failed to find buyers for two tenders of Urals crude totaling 1 million tons.

Topics:
Crude Oil, Oil Trade, Sanctions, Ukraine Crisis
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