Save for later Print Download Share LinkedIn Twitter With six weeks remaining until the Dec. 5 EU ban on most Russian crude oil imports, discounts on sour Russian Urals exports have started widening beyond the previously stable $20 per barrel versus sweet dated Brent. Some Indian buyers have halted buying cargoes arriving post-Dec. 5. Both official data from Russia and price assessment agencies indicate the Urals discount has reached $24-$25/bbl in recent days, and observers expect this to grow in the run-up to December. Knowing the sheer volumes at stake and limited time, buyers may hold out for steeper discounts while Russian producers fret in search of new customers and tanker tonnage. Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, EU buyers have pushed out 1.5 million barrels per day of crude imports, but Russia has managed to place all that in India, China and Turkey — albeit at a discount. Over the next six weeks, Russia needs to find a market for the remaining 1.1 million b/d still flowing to the EU that is not exempt from the import ban. In addition to price, Moscow will need to find sufficient tankers to haul the oil. Another EU directive says that tankers with connections to EU insurance and financing — close to 90% of the global fleet — cannot carry Russian oil. A large non-Western fleet has been put together in recent months. In the first half of 2022 alone, China bought 20 very large crude carriers (VLCCs) that can shuttle Russian crude from the Baltics and Black Sea to Asia under Chinese insurance and financing. India could potentially handle 600,000 b/d more, one Indian trader confirms. But Indian refiners fear the reach of US sanctions. Russia is also trying to rail 200,000 b/d more to China.