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A Case For Circumventing Oil Sanctions

With the sanctioning and tariff-slapping frenzy capturing most of media attention nowadays, we should get ready for a new epoch of geopolitics where the World Trade Organization’s standard rules are no longer the negotiator’s handbook. This also means that oil and gas investments and trade will be subjected to a whole new array of restrictions, making the navigation of tumultuous markets ever more difficult. Yet sanctions are proposed, written and amended by people, paving the way for straight-out errors, omissions and loose ends which the oil trading community must seek to exploit if it wishes to stay independent of political pressurizing. The US sanctions on Russia provide an illustrative case.

The US sanctions against Russia prohibit investment in Russia’s deepwater, Arctic offshore and shale oil, without any additional explanations on the actual classification parameters of shale – roughly put, they ban shale without saying what shale is. And herein lies a great opportunity and also a great, perhaps intentional, omission on the part of the US executive power at that point (the sanctions were introduced in 2014 by the Obama Administration). Shale oil in its strictest designation means kerogen oil, i.e. oil extracted from oil shales by means of artificially heating it up, which has been present in Estonia and Brazil for several decades already. But that is not shale as we know it – so let’s better examine the interpretation of another…




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