(Bloomberg) -- Russia’s seaborne crude exports were curtailed by maintenance work at export terminals, though shipments look set for a rebound in the coming week.
A four-day halt at the Primorsk oil terminal on the Baltic offset a recovery in Pacific flows in the seven days to Sept. 24. The works saw the country’s shipments fall by about 100,000 barrels a day to 3 million last week, with the less volatile four-week average flow dropping by a similar amount, tanker-tracking data compiled by Bloomberg show. Loading operations resumed at Primorsk from Friday.
The impact of port closures masks a boost to shipments from Moscow’s easing of earlier export restrictions. Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said early last month that the Kremlin would extend export cuts, while tapering them to 300,000 barrels a day from September, compared with 500,000 in August. The baseline for the reduction was average exports in May and June — when seaborne volumes hit new highs. Before the works at Primorsk, which followed a similar halt the previous week at Kozmino in Russia’s far east, shipments had risen by more than twice as much as implied by Novak’s comments.
While crude exports are expected to rebound, Russia has temporarily halted overseas shipments of gasoline and diesel. The move appears to be related to a shortage of supplies in the domestic market, rather than the weaponization of exports. Shipments are expected to resume as soon as the government and oil companies come up with a mechanism to ensure adequate supplies to local buyers, with analysts suggesting the disruption is unlikely to last more than a few weeks.
Refinery maintenance should also boost crude exports for the next few weeks. Russia’s average daily oil-processing rates have dropped to the lowest since late May as seasonal downstream maintenance has entered its peak. Russia’s refineries are set to continue the works for the next several weeks, with the peak of offline capacities seen to last until mid-October.
The combination of rising exports, despite the latest dip, and soaring prices have boosted the Kremlin’s revenues from oil export duties, which set a new eight-month high on a four-week average basis.
Flows by Destination
Russia’s seaborne crude flows slipped in the period to Sept. 24 on a four-week average basis to 3.2 million barrels a day, down from a revised 3.3 million barrels a day in the period to Sept. 17. Shipments remain about 640,000 barrels a day below the highs seen between April and June.
All figures exclude cargoes identified as Kazakhstan’s KEBCO grade. Those are shipments made by KazTransoil JSC that transit Russia for export through Novorossiysk and the Baltic port of Ust-Luga.
The Kazakh barrels are blended with crude of Russian origin to create a uniform export grade. Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Kazakhstan has rebranded its cargoes to distinguish them from those shipped by Russian companies. Transit crude is specifically exempted from European Union sanctions.
Observed shipments to Russia’s Asian customers, including those showing no final destination, edged lower to 2.73 million barrels a day in the four weeks to Sept. 24, from a revised 2.8 million barrels a day in the period to Sept. 17 and from a high of 3.6 million in April.
Even if all of the cargoes on ships without an initial destination eventually end up in India, shipments to the country will still be about 450,000 barrels a day, or 21%, down from their peak in May.
Adding the “Unknown Asia” and “Other Unknown” volumes to the total for India gives a figure of 1.65 million barrels a day in the four weeks to Sept. 24, down from a high of 2.15 million barrels a day in the period to May 21 and below the 1.71 million barrels a day seen in the period to Sept. 17.
The equivalent of 422,000 barrels a day was on vessels signaling Port Said or Suez in Egypt, or which are expected to be transferred from one ship to another off the South Korean port of Yeosu. Those voyages typically end at ports in India or China and show up in the chart below as “Unknown Asia” until a final destination becomes apparent.
The “Other Unknown” volumes, running at 190,000 barrels a day in the four weeks to Sept. 24, are those on tankers showing no clear destination. Most of those cargoes originate from Russia’s western ports and go on to transit the Suez Canal, but some could end up in Turkey. Others could be moved from one vessel to another, with most such transfers now taking place in the Mediterranean.
Russia’s seaborne crude exports to European countries were unchanged at 183,000 barrels a day in the 28 days to Sept. 24, with Bulgaria the sole destination. These figures do not include shipments to Turkey.
A market that consumed about 1.5 million barrels a day of short-haul seaborne crude, coming from export terminals in the Baltic, Black Sea and Arctic has been lost almost completely, to be replaced by long-haul destinations in Asia that are much more costly and time-consuming to serve.
No Russian crude was shipped to northern European countries in the four weeks to Sept. 24.
Exports to Turkey, Russia’s only remaining Mediterranean customer, rose for a third week, increasing to about 235,000 barrels a day in the four weeks to Sept. 24, the highest since June. Flows had topped 425,000 barrels a day in October, before falling sharply after the Group of Seven price cap came into effect in early December.
Flows to Bulgaria, now Russia’s only Black Sea market for crude, were unchanged at 183,000 barrels a day. That’s almost three times as much as the country was importing at the lowest points between March and May and equal to the highest levels seen since June 2022. The jump in imports comes despite the ruling coalition’s desire to end Bulgaria’s dependence on Russian crude.
Flows by Export Location
Aggregate flows of Russian crude slipped below 3 million barrels a day for the first time in five weeks in the seven days to Sept. 24. Maintenance work at Primorsk undermined flows even as Moscow eases back on the export cut it implemented in July and most of August.
Figures exclude volumes from Ust-Luga and Novorossiysk identified as Kazakhstan’s KEBCO grade.
Vessel-tracking data are cross-checked against port agent reports as well as flows and ship movements reported by other information providers including Kpler and Vortexa Ltd.
Inflows to the Kremlin's war chest from its crude-export duty slipped to $61 million in the seven days to Sept. 24, but four-week average income rose to $63 million, its highest level in more than eight months. Rising oil prices and the rebound in flows are both contributing to the increase in receipts.
Russia’s government calculates oil taxes — including export duty — using a discount to global benchmark Brent, which sets the floor price for the nation’s crude for budget purposes. If Russian oil trades above that threshold, the Finance Ministry uses the market price for tax calculations, as has been the case in recent months. The discount used to calculate taxes including export duty is set at $20 a barrel for September and subsequent months.
The duty rate for September has been set at $2.92 a barrel, based on an average Urals price of $70.33 during the calculation period between July 15 and Aug. 14. That was $13.90 a barrel below Brent during the same dates.
The rate for October has been set at $3.26 a barrel, based on an average Urals price of $77.03 during the calculation period between Aug. 15 and Sept. 14. That was $11.60 a barrel below Brent over the same period. October’s duty rate sets a new high for the year.
The following charts show the number of ships leaving each export terminal and the destinations of crude cargoes from the four export regions.
A total of 28 tankers loaded 21 million barrels of Russian crude in the week to Sept. 24, vessel-tracking data and port agent reports show. That’s down 700,000 barrels from the revised figure for the previous week.
A rebound in shipments from the Pacific port of Kozmino following the completion of maintenance work the previous week was offset by a slump in flows from Primorsk, likely also the result of work at the port. No crude cargoes were scheduled to complete loading at the Baltic port between Sept. 19 and Sept. 24.
Destinations are based on where vessels signal they are heading at the time of writing, and some will almost certainly change as voyages progress. All figures exclude cargoes identified as Kazakhstan’s KEBCO grade.
The total volume on ships loading Russian crude from the Baltic terminals dropped to a five-week low of 1.15 million barrels a day. Maintenance work at Primorsk reduced the number of tankers loading at the port last week to just four, down from a more normal level of at least nine. Shipments began again as the week ended, suggesting that a rebound is likely in the coming week.
Shipments of Russian crude from Novorossiysk were unchanged from the previous week’s revised figure. Shipments have recovered to the average levels seen before the dip in flows that began in July.
One cargo of Kazakh crude was also loaded at the port during the week, down from two during the previous seven days.
One Suezmax tanker completed loading a cargo at the Arctic port of Murmansk in the week to Sept. 24, reducing flows to a three-week low.
Three tankers were drifting outside the port at the end of the week, with another two due to arrive before the end of the month.
Twelve tankers loaded at Russia’s three Pacific export terminals, up by five from the previous week. The volume of crude shipped from the region jumped to a nine-week high of 1.25 million barrels a day.
The increase in flows was driven by a resumption of normal operations at Kozmino, with nine ships completing cargo loadings in the week to Sept. 24.
Shipments from the Sakhalin Island terminal appear to be returning to normal after the completion of maintenance at one of the Sakhalin 2 project’s oil production platforms. One vessel completed loading a cargo of Sakhalin Blend crude from the terminal last week.
The volumes heading to unknown destinations are Sokol cargoes that are currently being shuttled to an area off the South Korean port of Yosu from the loading terminal at De Kastri. Most of these are ending up in India.
Note: This story forms part of a weekly series tracking shipments of crude from Russian export terminals and the export duty revenues earned from them by the Russian government. Weeks run from Monday to Sunday. The next update will be on Tuesday, Oct. 3.
Note: All figures exclude cargoes owned by Kazakhstan’s KazTransOil JSC, which transit Russia and are shipped from Novorossiysk and Ust-Luga as KEBCO grade crude.
If you are reading this story on the Bloomberg terminal, click here for a link to a PDF file of four-week average flows from Russia to key destinations.
--With assistance from Sherry Su.
©2023 Bloomberg L.P.
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