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Russia Could Ease Diesel Export Ban

Russia may be close to partially lifting the export ban on diesel, allowing pipeline diesel exports within days, as full storage facilities threaten to force refiners to cut throughput, Russian daily Kommersant reported on Wednesday, quoting several unnamed sources.

Two weeks ago, Russia surprised the markets by announcing a temporary ban on exports of gasoline and diesel to stabilize domestic fuel prices amid soaring crude prices and a weak Russian ruble. Diesel and gasoline exports are now temporarily banned to all countries except for four former Soviet states—Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan.

Last week, Russia tweaked its export limitations on fuels, lifting the temporary ban on exports of low-quality high-sulfur diesel and marine fuel and allowing the export of fuel supplies that already had loading papers and were accepted for export to proceed.

Now Moscow could be ready to allow pipeline diesel exports, although they could be subject to export quotas, due to fast-filling storage at oil pipeline monopoly Transneft, according to Kommersant’s sources. The ban on gasoline exports is expected to remain in place, for now.

Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak is meeting with representatives of the oil companies on Wednesday and a decision could be formalized at the meeting, Kommersant’s sources said.

Transneft’s diesel storage capacity is almost full while redirecting supply to the domestic market is technically nearly impossible. As a result, the large Russian companies have expressed concerns that they could be forced to reduce refinery operations and cut not only diesel but gasoline production, too, Kommersant’s sources noted.

According to two of those sources, the Russian government is considering introducing quotas for pipeline diesel exports to prevent a spike in prices, which have dropped by 25% since September 21, when the ban was introduced.

“While a ban on diesel exports from the largest diesel exporter sounds precarious for the wider diesel market amid low stocks and heading into winter, in reality it could significantly harm Russia if prolonged,” Pamela Munger, Senior Market Analyst at Vortexa, wrote last week.

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“Tank storage is said to be only a few weeks away from tank tops and shutting down refineries and minimizing pipelines is normally tricky business from an operational perspective.”    

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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