Has Russia managed to export more oil to Asia by sea to compensate for the EU oil embargo?
Figures from the Reuters news agency, which at least make it seem possible, occupied the oil market on Tuesday.
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"Russia seems to be able to continue to cope surprisingly well with the western oil sanctions," write the analysts at Commerzbank in their daily market report.
"Russia is relatively successful in diverting oil exports, which were already shipped by sea," comments Cyrus de la Rubia, oil specialist at Hamburg Commercial Bank.
And the Internet portal Heizoel24 even attributes the falling heating oil prices in Germany, among other factors, to the fact that Russia's oil exports by sea have so far remained surprisingly stable - and the expected decline in global supply has therefore not materialized so far.
OPEC meeting on flow rates
All of this is also relevant because the Opec oil cartel and its allies, including Russia (Opec plus), are meeting on Wednesday to decide on further oil production.
In addition, the next stage of the EU embargo, which includes the transport of Russian oil products such as diesel or heating oil by sea, is due to take effect this Sunday, February 5th.
In any case, the price of oil has fallen again somewhat in the past few days, to around $84 per barrel (159 liter barrel) for North Sea Brent and $77 per barrel for American West Texas Intermediate (WTI).
Russia, however, gets considerably less for its oil: Urals oil is traded at significant discounts well below 60 dollars.
Since the beginning of the year, the prices for Brent have only fallen by around 2 percent, while those for the Russian Urals variety have fallen by 11 percent.
"I suspect that Russia has lost bargaining power as a result of the West's measures and must therefore accept the lower prices," says oil expert de la Rubia.
Substitute customers due to EU embargoes
All economic data from Russia should certainly be treated with some caution at the moment.
In any case, Commerzbank classifies the latest Reuters figures as follows: In January, significantly more crude oil was exported from the Russian Baltic Sea ports of Primorsk and Ust-Luga than in the previous month.
Shipments totaled 7.1 million tons of oil, according to loading schedules, which would be the highest level since 2019.
In December it was still 4.7 million tons.
The deliveries also contain Kazakh oil, which is exempt from Western sanctions and therefore offers Western buyers a substitute for the Russian deliveries that are no longer available.
Nevertheless, a considerable part may have been Russian oil of the Urals variety.
70 percent of it is said to have been shipped to India.
India's oil imports hit a five-month high as early as December.
Indian purchases are likely to have benefited from the significantly lower price level: at times, Urals cost less than 40 dollars a barrel in the port of Primorsk due to increased transport costs and other logistical difficulties.
In February, too, there does not seem to be any sign of a slowdown in deliveries: According to traders, shipments in the port of Ust-Luga in the first ten days are likely to be one million tons, 11 percent higher than in the corresponding period in January.
Commerzbank thinks the EU embargo on oil products that comes into effect at the end of the week could be one reason: Russia is thus losing its most important sales market for diesel - it could therefore be keen to export more crude oil to countries like India, which are not participate in embargo and price cap.
Pipeline volumes partially diverted
So-called tracking data from crude oil tankers also indicated an increase in Russian oil exports by sea, reports Giovanni Staunovo, an oil specialist at Swiss bank UBS.
Accordingly, Russian exports by sea in January are likely to have risen by more than 500,000 barrels a day compared to the previous month.
"Including pipeline deliveries, however, total exports from Russia have increased only slightly, since Germany and Poland no longer import crude oil via pipelines," said Staunovo.
These quantities were diverted, which explains the increased exports by ship.
According to Energy Intelligence, which is based on data from the Russian Ministry of Energy, Russia's total crude oil exports rose nearly 190,000 barrels a day month-on-month in the first 16 days of January to 4.525 million barrels a day, after falling 265,000 in December barrels per day had collapsed compared to November.
Most of these exports go to China and India – Bulgaria and Turkey also bought Russian crude oil in Europe.
For consumers in Germany, too, oil and oil products have recently been somewhat cheaper: heating oil fell on Tuesday to 107.37 euros for 100 liters.
Fuel also became a little cheaper again, albeit after a previous price increase: per liter of Super E10 you paid an average of 1.788 euros - per liter of diesel 1.851 euros.