Russian oil exports: critical fall in April

Russian oil exports: critical fall in April
Russian oil exports: critical fall in April

Russian exports of petroleum products suffered a significant decline in April, reaching the lowest levels since the pandemic lockdowns in 2020. According to data provided by S&P Global Commodities at Sea, seaborne shipments of diesel, fuel oil, naphtha and other refined products increased slightly in the second half of the month to an average of 1.94 million barrels per day (bpd), marking a decline of 360,000 bpd from March, and almost 700,000 b/d below January levels.

Impact of drone attacks

Russia’s refining capabilities have been seriously affected by a series of Ukrainian drone attacks specifically targeting its Western refineries. These attacks not only damaged the facilities but also caused the Orsk refinery, with a capacity of 116,000 b/d, to be shut down for two weeks in April due to flooding. On April 27, one of the largest drone attacks was launched, shooting down 66 drones over the Krasnodar region of Russia, damaging refineries in Ilsky and Slavyansk.

Repair and resilience

Russia is working to quickly repair damaged units. Currently, 600,000 b/d of refining capacity remains offline, down from a peak of more than 1 million b/d the previous month. The Russian oil industry has demonstrated a remarkable ability to quickly restore affected capacity, often in as little as three weeks, according to S&P Global analysts.

Market consequences and adaptation strategies

Despite the attacks, Russia has put in place measures to limit the impacts. This includes increasing operations at unaffected refineries and prioritizing shipments of petroleum products by rail to fill regional fuel shortages. Furthermore, the attacks had a moderate effect on market prices, with diesel crack spreads having decreased, reflecting a situation of sufficient stocks to cover weakened demand. Diesel crack spreads against Rotterdam-dated Brent fell below $16/bbl on May 1, down from $18.50/bbl in April.

Evolution of exports to India and other markets

The latest data shows that Russian crude oil exports to India jumped to an 11-month high in April, reaching almost 2 million b/d, a significant increase of 350,000 b/d from the previous month . This contrasts with a reduction in flows to China and Turkey, illustrating a dynamic readjustment of export markets in response to sanctions and logistical constraints. In response to continued threats to shipping in the Red Sea, the volume of Russian oil at sea has declined from recent records, despite support from longer voyages around the Cape of Good Hope.

Russia’s oil export crisis in April highlights the vulnerability and resilience of the country’s energy infrastructure. Despite ongoing challenges posed by drone attacks and extreme weather conditions, Russia shows an impressive ability to adapt quickly. The implications for global energy markets remain significant, with a particular focus on evolving trade relations and Russia’s ability to maintain exports in a tense geopolitical context.

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