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Russia's War Machine Still Getting Plenty of Cash From Oil

(Bloomberg) -- Note to the G-7 and the US Treasury Secretary: Russia is still raking it in from oil, even if its exports are showing signs of ebbing.

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An increase in the rate of export duty charged on crude oil shipped out of Russia in July has helped the Kremlin to ride out a slump in flows in the first full week of the month.Duty rates increased by 23% between June and July, delivering an additional $1.42 a barrel to the Kremlin on every cargo shipped out of the country. That boost helped Russia shrug off a 15% drop in crude shipments in the week to July 8, with revenues edging down by just $3 million, or 2%.

The relative moves in Russia’s overseas crude shipments and the Kremlin’s immediate income from them will not make comfortable reading for the Group of Seven industrialized countries. They are under pressure to find a way to hurt Russia without spiking oil prices. In an attempt to do that, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is pushing a plan to cap Russian oil prices in order to preserve export volumes while hitting the government’s revenues.

The US administration will use talks with nations including India and Japan to rally support for the price cap, which would see buyers able to access insurance and transportation services needed to ship Russian crude only if the oil is purchased below an agreed price. There is no guarantee, though, that Russia would agree to ship its oil under such terms, even if buyers sign up to the plan.

Aggregate crude flows from Russian ports were down week-on-week by 555,000 barrels a day, or 15%, with shipments lower from all four of the country’s exporting regions.

Overall, Russia’s seaborne shipments fell to 3.12 million barrels a day in the week to July 8, following the previous week’s jump (see chart below).

The data are still tentative, but using a rolling four-week average of exports indicates that Russia's seaborne flows have been on a downtrend since mid-June, according to tanker tracking data monitored by Bloomberg. Gauging exports through vessel movements is very noisy because of loading schedules, maintenance, weather and other things that can influence flows. Taking longer-running averages can smooth out some, but not all, of that noise.

On a four-week rolling average basis, flows have dropped to 3.38 million barrels a day in the period to July 8, falling in each of the past three weeks. They are now down by 325,000 barrels a day, or 9%, since mid-June.

Asian countries, dominated by China and India, are still taking more than half of all the crude shipped from the Russia, but that share is edging lower. In the most recent four-week period, flows to Asia accounted for 52% of Russia’s total seaborne exports. That figure includes volumes on tankers heading from Baltic and Black Sea ports to the Suez Canal and is down from a high of 63% in the four weeks to April 15.

Shipments to China averaged 628,000 barrels a day in the most recent four-week period, with flows to India at 522,000 barrels a day. But both those figures are expected to rise, once destinations become known for about 210,000 barrels a day of crude on tankers yet to signal final discharge locations. Shipments to Asian countries other than China and India have virtually dried up, with rare cargoes heading to Japan and South Korea from Pacific terminals.

With an EU ban on imports of Russian oil still almost five months away, the volume that Moscow is shipping to northern Europe has stabilized in a range between 400,000 and 450,000 barrels a day since the end of April. Most of that is going into storage tanks at Rotterdam in the Netherlands, with small volumes going to Poland and Finland.

Four-week average shipments of Russian crude to the Mediterranean soared after the invasion of Ukraine but have been drifting lower since peaking in mid-June. In the period to July 8, they were the lowest in 12 weeks.

Lukoil’s ISAB plant on the Italian island of Sicily is a key buyer of Russian crude, while Turkey has also boosted purchases. It remains to be seen what ISAB will do when the EU ban on seaborne Russian crude comes into force in December. Until then, with no legal impediment to its purchases and few, if any alternatives to its diet of Russian crude, shipments are unlikely to fall much.

The Mediterranean picture is repeated in the Black Sea, again driven by increased shipments to a Lukoil-owned refinery in Bulgaria. While flows to Romania are little changed since the start of the year, those to Bulgaria are two-and-a-half times as big as they were in January and early February.

Combined shipments to Bulgaria and Romania averaged just below 300,000 barrels a day since mid-April, although they have retreated from the peak seen in the week to June 17. Four-week average shipments to July 8 were unchanged from the previous week.

Moscow’s revenue from export duty fell much less sharply than crude flows in the week to July 8, slipping by just $3 million, or 2%, to $159 million. Higher per-barrel duty rates payable in July cushioned the drop.

Crude shipments in July will earn the Kremlin $55.20 a ton (about $7.53 a barrel), up from $44.80 a ton ($6.11 a barrel) in June. That is the highest duty rate charged by the Russian government since April, reflecting an increase in Urals prices between mid-May and mid-June compared with the month earlier.

A total of 30 tankers loaded 21.8 million barrels from the country’s export terminals in the week to July 8, vessel-tracking data and port agent reports show.

The number of shipments from each of the four regions — the Baltic, the Black Sea, the Arctic and the Pacific — was down by one in the week to July 8.

Crude Flows by Region

The following charts show the destinations of crude cargoes from each of the four export regions. Destinations are based on where vessels signal they are heading at the time of writing, and some will almost certainly change as voyages progress.

The total volume of crude on ships loading from the Baltic terminals at Primorsk and Ust-Luga edged lower in the week to July 8, with a drop in the number of tankers leaving Ust-Luga more than offsetting an increase in the number handled at Primorsk.

The volume on tankers loading at Baltic terminals and showing destinations in northern Europe slipped back, with more crude heading to the Mediterranean.

Flows from the Baltic to Asia remained at just over 625,000 barrels a day for a third week, but the large volume on ships yet to show a final destination suggests this figure will rise.

Five tankers completed loading at Novorossiysk in the Black Sea in the week to July 8, down by one from the previous week, with flows falling to their lowest in 12 weeks. All are showing destinations indicating that they will discharge at ports in the Mediterranean and Black Sea.

Shipments from floating storage units at Russia’s Arctic port of Murmansk fell in the week to July 8, equaling their lowest level this year. Two cargoes were loaded from Gazprom Neft’s Umba floating storage unit and both are headed to Rotterdam. No crude was lifted from Lukoil’s Kola unit.

Crude flows from Russia’s three eastern oil terminals — Kozmino, De Kastri and Prigorodnoye — fell week-on-week at 838,000 barrels a day.

Eight tankers loaded ESPO crude at Kozmino, unchanged from the previous week. Two cargoes are heading for India, where they are due to arrive at Sikka on July 22 and Mundra on July 27.

There were no shipments for a ninth week from De Kastri, which handles Sokol crude from the Sakhalin 1 project. Two shuttle tankers remain anchored empty off the terminal.

No cargoes of Sakhalin Blend crude were loaded in the week to July 8.

Note: This story forms part of a regular weekly series tracking shipments of crude from Russian export terminals and the export duty revenues earned from them by the Russian government.

Note: Aggregate weekly seaborne flows from Russian ports in the Baltic, Black Sea, Arctic and Pacific can be found on the Bloomberg terminal by typing {ALLX CUR1 }

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