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Venezuela Receives First Russia Urals Cargo in Five Years

Russia has sent its first cargo of its flagship Urals crude grade to Venezuela in five years as tougher U.S. sanctions on Moscow’s oil exports and Red Sea shipping disruptions prompt Russians to seek “friendly” buyers of its crude further away from home.

The supertanker Ligera has already arrived near Amuay Bay off Venezuela, after loading at least 1.7 million barrels of Urals crude in ship-to-ship transfers off the southern coasts of Greece in the Mediterranean in January, according to tanker-tracking data compiled by Bloomberg.

This is the first observed shipment of Urals crude to Venezuela – which Russia considers a “friendly” country alongside Iran and China – in at least five years, according to Bloomberg’s data.

It is not clear why Russia sent the Urals cargo to Venezuela, although the South American country has imported in the past such crudes with which it dilutes its heavy oil to make it suitable for export, Bloomberg notes.

The rare shipment of Urals crude to Venezuela comes as the U.S. is toughening the sanctions enforcement against Russia and has threatened to impose sanctions on financial institutions that are found to have facilitated Russian exports. This threat has made banks more cautious and has reportedly created payment issues for some Indian customers of Russian crude grade Sokol.

Venezuela is one of the few new markets that Russia can tap as the EU and U.S. embargoes and the price cap on Russian oil have made buyers with business in the U.S. very cautious in dealings with Moscow’s crude and fuels.

As the EU – Russia’s previous top oil buyer – banned imports of Russian crude and fuels, Moscow turned to Asia, especially China and India, to place its crude oil.

China took in half of all the crude oil that Russia exported in 2023, with India a close second, Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said at the end of last year.

China now accounts for 45% to 50% of Russian oil and fuel exports, while India is taking in some 40%, Novak said. The increase is particularly remarkable for India, where Russia exported almost no oil whatsoever until 2022. Now, it is the subcontinent’s leading supplier. 

By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com

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