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Russian Oil Output Slides, But Exports Hold Up

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Russian oil output has fallen by over 1 million barrels per day this month as international outrage over the invasion of Ukraine — now in its third month — starts to catch up with Moscow.

However, unlike the cuts made to comply with Russia's Opec-plus obligations, the current reductions in output have not been spread out evenly among all producers.

More than 80% of the decline has been borne by one company: state-controlled Rosneft, the country's top producer.

Exports, meanwhile, remained remarkably robust in April thanks to big discounts that have attracted buyers, as well as volumes pulled from temporary storage, Energy Intelligence's analysis shows.

Flows of crude and refined products from Russia, the world's third-largest producer, are the single biggest issue in the global market right now.

Official data show that average crude and condensate production for Apr. 1-19 amounted to 10.1 million b/d, down 900,000 b/d from average output for March.

The one-day total for Apr. 19 was 9.86 million b/d, a drop of 1.15 million b/d versus last month's average.

Rosneft Takes the Fall

Production at Russia's largest oil company, Rosneft, has seen a disproportionately steep decline.

In Apr. 1-19, the combined output of Rosneft and its subsidiary Bashneft sank by 730,000 b/d compared to March — accounting for 80% of all Russia's production losses so far this month.

The major's largest subsidiary, Yuganskneftegas, suffered a decline of nearly 360,000 b/d.

By contrast, Lukoil, Russia's No. 2 producer, actually kept output flat during the 19 days, while third-ranked Gazprom Neft posted a mere 37,000 b/d decline.

Some analysts say the big dip in Rosneft's output could reflect a policy decision by Moscow to limit global supply, but it could also reflect the company’s efforts to adjust volumes in the face of looming, and perhaps lasting, export hurdles.

Exports in Fine Fettle

Shipping data for Russia's European ports show that seaborne crude exports are rising to levels well above prewar volumes, with new clients more than offsetting those shunning Russian barrels.

India and Italy have popped up as buyers of volumes shunned by traditional clients. So far in April, India bought 550,000 b/d more than its average for 2021, while Italy bought 320,000 b/d more.

India used to buy an average of around 50,000 b/d, but shipping data indicate that so far in April it has bought 400,000 b/d from the Baltics and 215,000 b/d from the Black Sea.

Those volumes could rise as some cargoes without destinations are en route to Asia.

Turkey is also snapping up an additional 100,000 b/d or so, according to data for Russia's European ports.

Before the war, the European ports were running at close to 1.8 million b/d. But in the first 26 days of April, they handled 2.2 million b/d as buyers swarmed to buy oil discounted at $20-$40 per barrel.

The list of European countries that seem to be shunning Russian crude is growing and includes the UK, Belgium, Lithuania, Greece, Sweden and Denmark. France and Finland are scaling back their volumes.

April exports of products are down 700,000 b/d from January and February averages, but they remain on par with March at just over 2 million b/d. The decline in these volumes has contributed to rising prices for refined products, especially diesel.

Refining Stabilizes

Refinery throughput has fallen 15% since the start of the war to 4.94 million b/d, the lowest level since 2013.

However, most of the decline occurred in March, while April runs have steadied as companies have responded to pressure to meet domestic demand without raising prices.

To be sure, domestic demand for products is sinking in step with Russia's economy, which is forecast to shrink by up to 10% this year.

But the biggest reason for refining woes is the lack of alternative markets. For example, once the US banned imports of heavy fuel oil, Russia was stuck with some 350,000 b/d of this dirty, loss-making product.

Domestic prices have collapsed to $20/bbl, which indicates that refiners can't even give it away.

Exports of naphtha, a favored feedstock for European petrochemical plants, have also shrunk, forcing one Russian refinery, Taif-NK, to close down operations.

Topics:
Crude Oil, Oil Supply, Refining, Sanctions
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