Money and Markets

A growing amount of Russian oil is being sent 'destination unknown'

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Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Alexey Nikolsky/Getty Images
  • Russia has been exporting an increasing amount of oil marked "destination unknown" since invading Ukraine.
  • So far in April, more than 11.1 million barrels have been loaded onto cargoes with unknown destinations, compared to nearly zero prior to the war.
  • Analysts told the Wall Street Journal this practice is a way of obfuscating the oil's origin. 
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More and more Russian oil exports are marked "destination unknown" as the industry looks for ways to continue doing business with Moscow during its war on Ukraine.

So far in April, more than 11.1 million barrels have been loaded onto cargoes with unknown destinations, compared to nearly zero prior to the invasion, according to the Wall Street Journal, which cited data from TankerTrackers.com. 

Analysts told the Journal this practice signals that Russian oil is being unloaded onto larger ships at sea and mixed with that tanker's crude, obfuscating the export's origin. 

New grades of oil are on the market now called the "Latvian blend" and the "Turkmenistani blend," containing significant amounts of Russian oil, traders also told the Journal.

While the European Union is discussing a full embargo on Russian oil, it isn't directly sanctioned yet. And exports to EU member states rebounded this month after dipping in March.

But some oil companies have been "self-sanctioning" anyway to avoid the reputation risk of appearing to do business with Russia. Earlier this month, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's adviser told the Financial Times that traders handling Moscow's oil are "helping Russia receive this blood money."

Meanwhile, Russian exports to Asia and the Mediterranean have increased in April, Bloomberg reported, though Russia has had to send its tankers much farther distances to reach buyers. Price-sensitive buyers from China and India have been snapping up discounted Russian oil

The US, for its part, just notched its highest weekly export of oil products ever as it helps replace Russian oil supply. For the week ending April 15, US oil and petroleum exports hit a record 10.6 million barrels a day. That same week, Russian oil exports dropped 25% from the prior week.

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