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Russian Oil Disruptions Hit Critical Point

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Russian crude oil and refined products exports have plunged by about 3 million barrels per day in less than 10 days, a figure that could jump to 5 million b/d soon as Western sanctions mount and pressure to shun Russian oil intensifies in global oil markets. Benchmark Brent's brief surge to $139 per barrel this week reflects concerns that there is no easy way to replace disrupted Russian oil flows. Russian barrels are struggling to find a home in the US and Europe, while many Asian buyers are also hesitant to purchase them. Buyers are reluctant due to concerns over far-reaching financial sanctions or reputational damage, shipowners are loath to commit tankers to load Russian oil, and ports are shutting down access to Russian-flagged vessels. "Self-sanctioning" alone has thrown Urals crude prices off the cliff, with the last reported trade being done at a historic discount of $28.5/bbl to dated Brent. Shell was publicly vilified for being the buyer, showing that even without a formal embargo, European refiners were already under public pressure of not lifting Russian volumes. Decisions this week by the US to ban Russian oil imports and by the UK to phase them out compounded market fears about handling Russian barrels. Given the overwhelming risk, the few buyers not yet deterred by intensifying sanctions are now demanding more extreme discounts. Energy Intelligence estimates that Russian crude flows dropped by 1.6 million b/d in the week ended Mar. 4, from about 4.7 million b/d before the war, while refined products exports are down by over 1.3 million b/d, versus around 2.8 million b/d before the disruptions.

Topics:
Oil Supply, Oil Prices, Oil Spot Markets, Ukraine Crisis
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