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Tsvetana Paraskova

Tsvetana Paraskova

Tsvetana is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing for news outlets such as iNVEZZ and SeeNews. 

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From Unknown To Unstoppable: New Traders Redefine Russia's Oil Landscape

  • New and lesser-known trading companies, primarily incorporated outside of Europe, have significantly handled Russian oil trades since the Western pullout.
  • Nord Axis Ltd and Coral Energy, both associated with Russian crude trading, have had representatives in common, pointing towards interconnected management.
  • New trading firms, mainly from Hong Kong and the UAE, have replaced major trading entities, handling approximately half of all Russian crude exports this year, with transportation predominantly managed by companies in the UAE, Greece, India, and China.

Little-known and newly-incorporated trading companies have handled large volumes of Russian crude oil and products since the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the withdrawal of Western firms from trades with Russia’s oil. 

The little-known oil trading companies that have mushroomed are incorporated in jurisdictions outside of Europe and are often notoriously opaque in their management and dealings.  

Some of those companies are said to have some representatives in common, according to documents reviewed by Bloomberg

Two of the new large traders of Russian crude and refined petroleum products – Coral Energy and Nord Axis Ltd – have had representatives in common. One representative for Coral Energy and a lawyer who has done work for Coral have both been directors of Nord Axis, per the documents dated 2022 Bloomberg has reviewed. 

Nord Axis is not as unknown as many other oil traders that have sprung up and started trading Russia’s oil.

Nord Axis, a Hong Kong-registered trading company, acquired the 10 percent non-operational, passive shareholding of oil trading giant Trafigura in the Vostok Oil project last year. Back then, Western majors were quitting en masse operations and non-operational stakes in Russian energy projects. 

Nord Axis is now a major exporter of Russian crude and handled as much as 586,000 barrels per day (bpd) worth $3.66 billion in the first four months of 2023, per data from the Kyiv School of Economics’ KSE Institute cited by Bloomberg. Nord Axis also traded $2.19 billion worth of refined products in the first four months of the year. Coral Energy, for its part, has seen its trade in Russian oil plunge this year, after saying in February that it was no longer trading any Russian crude or products. 

According to KSE Institute’s study on the sanctions on Russian oil, Russia continues to earn around $425 million per day from oil exports. 

“These inflows of foreign exchange play a key role for overall macroeconomic stability. Furthermore, revenues from oil production and exports help Russia to pay for the war,” the authors of the July 2023 report from the Kyiv School of Economics said, calling for much lower price caps on Russian crude oil and refined products. 

Russian customs data cited by Bloomberg has recently shown that the little-known newly-set up oil trading firms are handling a large part of the Russian oil supply to the market. Nord Axis Ltd, Tejarinaft FZCO, QR Trading DMCC, Concept Oil Services Ltd, Bellatrix Energy Ltd, and Coral Energy DMCC together handled about 1.4 million bpd of Russian crude oil. That’s more oil than what the commodity giants typically handled before the war in Ukraine and enough to meet the entire needs of countries such as the UK and Italy. 

Newly established commodity trading firms incorporated in Hong Kong and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have replaced trading and oil giants in handling Russian crude oil and products after the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the EU and G7 sanctions and price caps that followed.  

By some estimates, these one-year-old or younger trading companies have shipped at least half of all the Russian crude and refined products exports so far this year. 

The business of transporting Russian crude to Asia has become “crazy good,” a trader dealing with Russian oil told Reuters early this year. 

Most of the shipping companies transporting Russian crude—without breaching the sanctions and price cap—are based in the UAE, Greece, India, and China, and some of them are partially owned by Russian firms, according to numerous anonymous banking and trading sources who spoke to Reuters

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Russian crude and petroleum product exports held high in the first half of this year, contrary to many expectations of a slump in Russian exports after the embargo. The newly-created trading firms have played a key role in keeping those exports high.  

Lately, Russian crude oil exports by sea have plunged. They were estimated by Bloomberg to have averaged below 3 million bpd in the four weeks to July 30, the lowest four-week average since the start of the EU embargo.   

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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