Europe banned most oil shipments from Russia almost a year ago, but it’s binging on diesel that may well have been made from Russian crude.
The region’s imports of diesel from India, one of the biggest buyers of Russian crude, are on course to soar to 305,000 barrels a day, the most since at least January 2017, data from market intelligence firm Kpler show.
While it’s not possible to say with certainty that the molecules originated in Russia — India also processes oil from elsewhere — Moscow’s deliveries have given Indian refineries the ability to produce abundant diesel and boost exports.
Arrivals into Europe in November include a rare shipment from Mumbai-based Nayara Energy Ltd., which imported almost 60% of its crude from Russia this year, according to Kpler. Reliance Industries Ltd., Europe’s top supplier of Indian diesel, draws more than third of its crude from Russia, the figures show.
The surge in diesel imports from India also illustrates a fundamental shift in oil trading in the wake of the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine. A year ago, Russia was Europe’s top supplier of diesel, a fuel vital to the industrial and transport sectors. The European Union banned most seaborne imports of Russian crude in December and oil products in February.
In response, Europe and the UK have sought diesel supplies from other markets. India is helping to fill a supply gap as European imports from the US, Turkey and Saudi Arabia slip in November. Arrivals of Saudi diesel are set to drop to about 94,000 barrels a day, the lowest since February 2020.
The “availability of Saudi barrels has fallen sharply in October and November due to planned local refinery maintenance, boosting interest for Indian diesel,” said Eugene Lindell, head of refined products at industry consultant Facts Global Energy.
As the West shuns Russian oil, Moscow has found an increased appetite for its crude in Asia. Indian refiners have been able to purchase Russian crude at a discount and sell the processed oil in markets, like Europe, where diesel is in high demand.
“The 1.6-1.8 million barrels a day of Russian crude that Indian refiners buy creates a competitive edge that others do not have,” according to Viktor Katona, lead crude analyst at Kpler.
The share of Indian diesel flows to Asia now accounts for about 19% of the country’s total exports of the fuel, compared with 33% last year, he said. Much of that volume has been diverted to Europe. In total, Europe’s imports of diesel and gasoil this month are set to rise to 935,000 barrels a day, a 5% increase from October, Kpler data show.