Russian Crude Heads to UAE as Sanctions Divert Flows

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The United Arab Emirates has been taking more cargoes of Russian crude oil, according to ship tracking data and trading sources, in another example of how Western sanctions on Russia have adjusted traditional energy trade flows.

Russia has been selling both crude and refined products at discounted prices after international sanctions over its invasion of Ukraine, which Moscow calls a “special military operation,” left it with fewer buyers.

The development also highlights growing cooperation between Russia and top Gulf oil producers, such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Gulf Arab states have resisted U.S. pressure to help isolate Russia and to pump more oil to help replace Russian supply after it came under Western sanctions.

It is not known exactly when the UAE began importing Russian crude, but tanker tracking data indicates volumes have risen in the wake of Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent Western sanctions on Moscow.

Ship tracking data shows about 1.5 million barrels of Russian crude have gone to the UAE – one of the world’s biggest oil producers in its own right – since November 2022, with volumes either beginning or moving higher since early 2022.

According to data from energy analytics firm Kpler, the first shipment of Russian crude to the UAE was in 2019, but shipments increased after April 2022, with a pause between July and October 2022.

Refinitiv Eikon data shows the first Russian crude shipment to the country was in 2022, with a spike in volumes in April 2022.

The UAE and Russian energy ministries did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the data.

GROWING COOPERATION

Saudi Arabia has been importing significant amount of Russian fuel oil to burn at its power plants while freeing up more crude for exports. Only one shipment of Russian crude to the UAE has previously been reported.

China, India and several African and other Middle Eastern nations have also increased Russian crude and products imports, while many countries have banned or discouraged such purchases.

The UAE has also maintained cooperation with Russia in the alliance of global producers known as OPEC+, which groups the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies.

Data seen by Reuters on Eikon ship tracking showed a shipment of Russian crude arrived at the UAE Ruwais refinery in November 2022.

Another cargo, of Russian Urals crude, is shown as having arrived at the oil hub of Fujairah earlier this month.

Data from Kpler also showed both crude shipments as having taken place. “Shipments to UAE are occasional,” a Russian crude trading source said.

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