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Ship-To-Ship Loadings Of Urals Hit Record High As Russian Oil Heads To Asia

Loadings of Russia’s flagship Urals crude using ship-to-ship (STS) transfers in the Mediterranean surged eight times in January from December to a record in the first full month in which the EU banned seaborne imports of Russian oil.

STS loadings, used by traders to move the crude from smaller tankers onto larger ones to make the journey to Asia profitable, have soared since the EU ban came into effect on December 5, according to data from Refinitiv Eikon cited by Reuters on Tuesday.

The key STS loading points in the Mediterranean are near Kalamata in Greek waters and near the Spanish port of Ceuta in the Strait of Gibraltar.

STS loadings in the Mediterranean hit an all-time high of 1.7 million tons in January, an eightfold surge compared to December, per Refinitiv Eikon data and Reuters calculations.

Since Urals is no longer being imported into the EU, cargoes are being diverted to Asia, mostly to India, China, and Singapore.

While the Urals crude is now finding a home outside Europe, the low price of Russia’s flagship grade is reducing Russian revenues from oil, due to the steep discount at which Urals trades relative to Brent Crude.

Russia’s budget revenues from oil and gas plunged in January by 46% compared to the same month last year. Russian budget revenues from energy sales – including taxes and customs revenues – plummeted last month to the lowest level since August 2020.

In January 2023, the price of Urals grade averaged 42% lower than in the same month of 2022, as its discount to Brent Crude grew wider following the EU embargo and the G7 price cap, which came into effect on December 5. The average price of Urals in January, at $49.48 per barrel, was 1.7 times lower than in January 2022, when it averaged $85.64 per barrel, Russia’s Finance Ministry said last week. 

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Russia is considering taxing its oil firms based on the price of Brent – instead of Urals – to limit the fallout on the Russian budget revenues due to the widening discount of Urals to Brent, Russian daily Kommersant reported last week, quoting sources.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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