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European drivers who are already experiencing substantial pain at the pump are about to get even more unhappy as the market for naphtha, a key ingredient in gasoline, tightens amid EU sanctions on Russia.

According to a Bloomberg report, as a result of the sanctions, exports of naphtha from Russia to Europe have shrunk considerably since the start of the year, while demand is expected to increase as summer season begins and petrochemical plants restart after seasonal maintenance.

“Ultimately, there is some risk from a Russian shortfall in naphtha,” Energy Aspects oil product analyst Joseph McDonnell told Bloomberg.

“Russian barrels will continue to flow into Europe. But where buyers have self-sanctioned they will turn to the US, Algeria, Norway and other incremental suppliers to meet their buying requirements, and total Russian supply into Europe is a big gap to fill,” McDonnell explained.

European gasoline prices rose sharply in March, and although they have retreated since those peaks, prices are still considerably higher than they were at the start of the year.

Russia has traditionally been the biggest supplier of crude and oil products to Europe, with crude oil averaging some 2.2 million barrels daily and oil product exports averaging 1.2 million barrels daily, per data from the International Energy Agency.

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the sanction action taken by the European Union, buyers of oil and products have reduced their intake of Russian products.

In April, Russian naphtha exports to Europe fell to 333,000 bpd, according to Vortexa data analyzed by Bloomberg. Buyers have made up for the lost barrels with naphtha from other sources such as the United States and the Mediterranean.

Now, however, demand from Asia and from the U.S. is expected to rise substantially, too, as petrochemical plants exit maintenance, which would add pressure on suppliers. This would mean higher prices for finished gasoline in Europe.

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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Irina Slav

Irina is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry. More