Money and Markets

China, India now account for about 50% of Russia's seaborne oil exports — up from 40% before Ukraine war

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Russian President Vladimir Putin, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
  • Russia is shipping half of its seaborne crude oil to Asia — mainly China and India, per Bloomberg.
  • In May, Russia overtook Saudi Arabia to become India's second-largest supplier of oil.
  • Indian refiners imported three times more barrels from Russia in May than in April.
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Half of the Russian oil transported by ship is now heading for Asia — mainly to China and India, according to a Bloomberg analysis published on Monday.

Russia shipped 3.55 million barrels of oil a day in the week ending June 10. About 50% of those shipments, or 1.878 million barrels of oil, was heading to Asia, Bloomberg reported, citing commercial vessel tracking data. That's up from under 40% of the exports in the weeks leading up to Russia's invasion of Ukraine on February 24.

While China's imports from Russia have remained constant, India's buying has ramped up significantly, according to the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA), an independent research organization. In the first 100 days after Russia invaded Ukraine, India's purchases of Russian crude rose from 1% to 18% of the exports by value, the CREA wrote in a report published on Monday.

In May, Russia became India's second-largest supplier of oil behind Iraq, overtaking Saudi Arabia, Reuters reported, citing trade sources. Indian refiners imported about 819,000 barrels of Russian oil each day in May — a record amount, and about three times more than the 227,000 barrels a day it received in April, according to Reuters.

Russian crude oil is priced at a record discount to other grades on the spot market due to sanctions and boycotts, but energy prices have surged this year, propping up sales for the country. Sales of Russian oil and gas are expected to rise to $285 billion in 2022 — 20% higher than the country's $235.6 billion takings from oil and gas in 2021, according to a Bloomberg Economics report earlier this month.

Drawing international scrutiny

Chinese and Indian purchases of Russian oil amid the war have drawn scrutiny from the international community and stand in contrast to sanctions and boycotts from a number of Western countries. The US banned Russian energy imports in March, and the European Union has agreed to slash 90% of its Russian oil imports by the end of this year. 

Amos Hochstein, the US special envoy for energy affairs, told senators on Thursday that he had urged India to refrain from buying too much Russian oil.

Neither India nor China has condemned Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Beijing has criticized sanctions against Russia. India, meanwhile, has hit back at criticism that it's funding the war in Ukraine through its oil purchases. In May, the Indian petroleum and natural gas ministry said Russian energy accounts for a "miniscule" proportion of its consumption and that a sudden stop to crude shipments would jack up global oil prices and hurt consumers.

In April, former White House press secretary Jen Psaki said India isn't violating sanctions by buying Russian oil. In May, White House officials said China isn't violating sanctions by buying Russian oil either, Reuters reported. 


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