Commodities buying and selling homes assist maintain Russian oil flowing

LAUSANNE, Switzerland, March 25 (Reuters) – Commodities merchants resembling Trafigura and Vitol have helped maintain Russia’s oil flowing by means of its Baltic and Black Sea ports in March, when some Western companies began to snub the market, in line with ship monitoring, merchants and transport sources.

Each Swiss-based buying and selling homes have long-term offers with state-run Russian oil large Rosneft to load crude below agreements struck earlier than Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine triggered a wave of Western sanctions this month.

To date in March, the 2 corporations mixed have loaded 22 cargoes of Urals crude, equal to 2.32 million tonnes of oil or 16.7 million barrels, in line with Refinitiv Eikon ship monitoring knowledge and sources. They shipped 1.84 million tonnes in February and 1.80 million in January.

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The majority of the oil the 2 corporations purchase comes from Rosneft, although a big chunk of the crude Vitol handles by way of Russian ports comes from Kazakh producers.

The purchases haven’t breached any restrictions imposed by the West and lots of European international locations proceed to purchase Russian gasoline – even when some Western companies resembling Shell (SHEL.L) and BP (BP.L) have stopped shopping for Russian oil within the spot market.

Different Swiss-based merchants Glencore (GLEN.L), Gunvor and Petraco loaded Russian crude in March, although the volumes they took have been barely decrease than in earlier months, in line with transport knowledge and knowledge from merchants.

The loading knowledge provides an early indication of how the Ukraine battle could also be reshaping the worldwide oil market as surging costs, volatility and the specter of sanctions make it tougher to commerce. learn extra

With 12 cargoes of Urals to be loaded in March, in line with the transport knowledge as of March 25, Trafigura is having its busiest month since June when it additionally loaded 12. Its month-to-month common for the reason that begin of 2021 by means of February was 8.3 cargoes, in line with the info and buying and selling sources.

Vitol’s 10 cargoes is on a par with February and January and broadly consistent with a mean of 9.6 since its take care of Rosneft began in October. Its month-to-month common for the primary 9 months of 2021 was 5.1 cargoes.

Benchmark Brent crude hit its highest stage since 2008 this month on considerations about U.S. and European bans on Russian oil imports. Urals crude, in the meantime, has been buying and selling at document reductions to Brent costs. learn extra


Trafigura and Vitol advised Reuters they have been fulfilling current contracts and had not struck any new offers for Russian oil for the reason that Ukraine battle, which Moscow calls a particular operation, began on Feb. 24. They didn’t touch upon the volumes of Russian oil they’ve been shopping for.

Whereas the long-term contracts usually are not public, three sources advised Reuters that Trafigura has a deal operating a minimum of till subsequent yr whereas Vitol’s runs till a minimum of October this yr. The sources stated the contracts gave the businesses loads of flexibility on how a lot oil they’ll purchase every month. learn extra

The businesses have beforehand declined to remark to Reuters concerning the phrases of the agreements.

“We’re persevering with to adjust to our authorized obligations arising below current time period agreements entered into previous to the battle in Ukraine,” a Trafigura spokesperson stated.

“We’re taking each precaution to make sure we comply in full with relevant laws and sanctions and we proceed to have interaction with prospects and governments to grasp their necessities and supply the commodities and vitality they want in severely disrupted commodities market,” the spokesperson stated.

Offers for April are nonetheless being struck however up to now Trafigura has lined up eight cargoes for the primary 10 days of the month and Vitol has six. The businesses are additionally providing Russian oil referred to as ESPO Mix, which is exported by way of Asian ports, in Could.

The European Union banned transactions with a number of Russian vitality corporations together with Rosneft on March 15. Nonetheless, Brussels gave a two-month wind-down interval for contracts already agreed and excluded purchases that have been “strictly vital”.

European oil refiners are presently finding out what the brand new EU measures imply precisely for purchases of Russian crude and a few are on the lookout for oil from elsewhere whereas awaiting clarification, merchants stated.

Oil merchants stated they anticipated Trafigura and Vitol to press forward with crude purchases from Rosneft in April and Could, however probably not on the volumes initially deliberate given the potential difficulties in promoting the cargoes to EU patrons.


Huge Western oil corporations TotalEnergies (TTEF.PA), Shell and Exxon Mobil (XOM.N) – in addition to Finland’s Neste (NESTE.HE) – all loaded cargoes of Russian oil in March.

Most have been early within the month and ordered earlier than previous to the invasion, although Britain’s Shell snapped up a closely discounted cargo of Russian oil from Trafigura on March 4. Shell had pledged a number of days earlier to finish its operations in Russia and later apologised for the commerce after a hail of criticism. learn extra

Some cargoes of Urals as a result of be loaded by the Western companies within the second half of March have now been cancelled. Shell, Neste and TotalEnergies stated they’ve stopped new spot purchases of Russian oil. Exxon didn’t instantly reply to a request for remark. learn extra

Buying and selling home Petraco advised Reuters the Russian oil it has loaded, or was as a result of load, was contracted previous to the Ukraine invasion and that it strictly complies with authorities insurance policies.

Petraco has a long-term contract with Russian oil producer Neftisa that runs till the top of 2022 and a short-term contract with state-controlled Zarubezhneft that expires on the finish of March, in line with merchants.

Gunvor and Glencore each have Urals buy tenders with Rosneft operating from October by means of March this yr and many of the Russian crude loaded fell below these contracts. Neither is predicted to load any Rosneft oil in April, merchants stated.

Gunvor advised Reuters it will not do any new enterprise with Russia whereas a supply near Glencore stated it was solely dealing with oil from pre-invasion contracts.


Russia plans to export 6.2 million tonnes of Urals crude from its Baltic ports and a few 2.28 million by way of Novorossiisk within the Black Sea, in line with the loading schedule for March.

Whereas the last word vacation spot of some cargoes might change, the entire quantity of Russian exports for March is predicted to stay broadly consistent with its plans earlier than the invasion.

Many of the oil being shipped in March is due go to Europe, with a couple of third heading to India and China, transport knowledge exhibits.

Nonetheless, merchants stated they anticipated about half the oil as a result of go to the Amsterdam-Rotterdam-Antwerp refining and storage hub would in all probability be offloaded onto larger tankers and despatched to Asia, given the reluctance of EU patrons to take Russian crude. learn extra

Litasco, the Swiss buying and selling arm of Russia’s Lukoil (LKOH.MM), has one of many largest shares of Russian seaborne crude exports in March with some 1.5 million tonnes as a result of be loaded, in line with transport knowledge. Litasco declined to remark.

China’s Unipec, the buying and selling arm of Asia’s largest refiner Sinopec (600028.SS), took a number of Urals cargoes in March, monitoring and buying and selling sources stated. Unipec didn’t reply to a request for remark.

Merchants stated a number of cargoes of Russian crude as a result of be loaded on the finish of March didn’t have tankers lined up but, elevating doubts as as to if the loadings will occur.

Whereas Swiss buying and selling companies have been loading Russian oil, not all of their tankers have agency locations at this level, three buying and selling sources stated.

“It is one factor to load the oil, one other to search out the client,” one Urals crude dealer stated.

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Reporting by Julia Payne and Reuters reporters; Modifying by David Clarke

Our Requirements: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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