RUSSIAN OIL FOR U.S. YET
PLATTS - 28 Feb 2022 - Russian oil and products tankers are continuing to deliver uninterrupted to customers in the US as pressure from international sanctions on Russia ramps up in response to Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.
The latest example of the Kremlin's role as an oil and products supplier to the world's largest economy came on Feb. 28 when the Russian-owned SCF Irtysh was discharging 350,000 barrels of naphtha at the Kinder Morgan Carteret fuel terminal in New Jersey, according to data intelligence firm Kpler.
The tanker -- owned by Russian shipping company Sovcomflot -- had been scheduled to load naphtha from Novatek's terminal in Ust Luga for Feb.2-5, according to a copy of the Baltic loading program seen by S&P Global Platts.
A spokesperson at Sovcomflot was unavailable for comment. A spokesperson at the Kinder Morgan fuel terminal in New Jersey declined to comment on "customer movement information."
US President Joseph Biden has led the international response to Russia's invasion with sanctions targeting the economy and banks using the SWIFT transaction messaging system. The US has said it wants to avoid hitting Russia's exports of oil and gas for now but is keeping targeted energy sanctions 'on the table" if the situation worsens. Along with other measures targeting foreign exchange, some market participants have warned trading in energy and commodities from Russia could be disrupted by the existing financial curbs.
Despite the latest unloading of Russian petroleum products in the US, shipments have recently been in decline. US imports of Russian crude oil have fallen to roughly 13,500 b/d since Jan. 1, down from an average of 199,000 b/d in 2021, according to the latest US data, reflecting declining reliance on Russian crude as the Ukraine crisis escalated.
Russian crude deliveries to the US dropped in half in December to 90,000 b/d, compared with 182,000 b/d in November, the Energy Information Administration said. The country was the ninth top crude supplier in December, down from the fifth spot in November.
S&P Global Platts Analytics had said only one Russian cargo of crude with about 750,000 barrels of ESPO had arrived in the US in 2022, with another 1.6 million barrels of VGO and 1.25 million barrels of fuel oil.
Previously, US reliance on Russian oil had surged after January 2019 sanctions against Venezuela's PDVSA cut off flows of heavy feedstock. But Gulf Coast refiners have other options, including easing exports of Mars or other domestic sour crude or increasing imports of Canadian or Latin American heavy grades at the cost of margins, according to Platts Analytics.
The SCR Irtysh entered the US on Feb. 26, data from Platts ship tracking tool showed. The US has become increasingly reliant on Russian oil in the past few years, buying both Russian crude and refined products in the past few years. Naphtha is a clean petroleum product used commonly to make plastics.
Russian exports to the US have increased in recent years, primarily as a result of US sanctions against Venezuela. Previously, US refiners were particularly reliant on heavy and sour Venezuelan crude, which in some cases is quite similar to Russian medium sour oil.