During the first 100 days of Vladimir Putin's war in Ukraine (from February 24 to June 3), Russia earned €93 billion ($98 billion) in revenue from fossil fuel exports, of which 61%, around €57 billion, came from European nations. During this period, India emerged among the top 10 importers of Russian fossil fuels, with China, Germany, Italy and Netherlands topping the chart, a report by Finland-based independent organisation Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA) shows. Russia accounted for 18% of India’s crude imports in May, a huge rise from 1% before the Ukraine war, shows the report.

The largest importers were China (€12.6 billion), Germany (€12.1 billion), Italy (€7.8 billion), Netherlands (€7.8 billion), Turkey (€6.7 billion), Poland (€4.4 billion), France (€4.3 billion), India (€3.4 billion) and Belgium (€2.6 billion), shows the data.

In May, the European Union published its plan to end reliance on Russian oil, coal and gas by 2027. There are three main parameters of this plan — initial mega expansion of renewable energy, saving more energy, and increased import of fuels from sources other than Russia.

Amid these plans, the Russian crude oil imports into the EU fell by 18% in May 2022, the CREA report shows. However, this reduction was taken up by India and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), leading to no net change in Russia’s crude oil export volumes, it adds.

Four major economies — India, France, China, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, have all increased imports of Russian fuel since the war broke out.

India has emerged as a significant importer of Russian crude oil, buying 18% of its crude oil exports from the Putin-led country, shows the report. "A significant share of the crude is re-exported as refined oil products, including to the U.S. and Europe, an important loophole to close," it adds.

Moreover, Indian refineries have enhanced the import of Russian oil, which is available at a discounted price. These local refineries have become major importers of Russian crude oil, with India's share of Russia's total crude exports shooting up.

"It rose from around 1% before the invasion to 18% in May."

The largest buyer of Russian crude in India is the Jamnagar refinery, which received 27% of its oil from Russia in May 2022, a huge rise from less than 5% before April, the CREA report shows.

"Arrivals from Russia have mainly replaced arrivals from other sources, but there is also an uptick in crude intake since the start of April when the arrivals from Russia started to rise sharply."

Much oil is being re-exported to US, Europe

More than half of the refined oil deliveries from Jamnagar go outside of India. Around 20% of exported cargoes left for the Suez canal, indicating they were heading to either Europe or the U.S. "We identified shipments to the United States, France, Italy and the U.K.," the CREA report shows.

Due to long shipping distances, the emergence of “India’s refining trade” has meant that more tanker capacity than ever before is needed to ship Russian crude, says the report, while advocating for "strong sanctions" against tankers transporting Russian crude. This could significantly limit the scope for this kind of rerouting of Russia’s exports, it says, adding that it could end a "key vulnerability".

In April-May, 67% of deliveries of Russian crude oil were made with ships owned by European and U.S. companies. For deliveries to India and the Middle East, the share was even higher at 85%, with Greek tankers alone carrying 75%. "97% of tankers carrying Russian crude were insured in just three countries — U.K., Norway and Sweden."

Notably, tanker rates are already at record highs, after a very modest reduction in E.U. imports. The shortage of tanker capacity and long distances are causing Russian exporters to resort to workarounds such as ship-to-ship transfers, the report adds.

Indian refiners like Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Industries, Nayara Energy, state-owned BPCL and IOCL have emerged as new buyers of Russia's crude with increased volumes. Overall, of the total 23 big global companies that were buying Russian oil before the war, 15 are still doing so.

"In our previous analysis, we identified 23 large companies that bought Russian fossil fuels in the first two months of the war. 15 of these have continued purchases in May: oil companies Exxon, Shell, Total, Repsol, Lukoil, Neste, and Orlen; power utility companies Taipower, Chubu Electric Power, TEPCO and Trieste thermal power plant; and industrial companies Nippon Steel, POSCO, Formosa Petrochemical Corporation, and JFE Steel. Malaysia’s national electricity company TNB joined the list in May."

Russia's exports are falling

Of the total fossil fuel revenue of €93 billion, Russia earned €46 billion from crude oil, €24 billion from pipeline gas, €13 billion from oil products, €5.1 billion from LNG, and €4.8 billion from coal exports. Despite decent exports amid Western sanctions, the data shows that Russia's revenues are falling since the war broke out.

The reduction in demand and the discounted price for Russian oil cost the country around €200 million per day in May. "However, increase in fossil demand has created a windfall: Russia’s average export prices were an average 60% higher than last year, even if they were discounted from international prices."

China overtook Germany as the largest importer. China’s imports have been essentially constant while Germany has managed a modest reduction in oil imports from Russia. Poland and the United States made the largest dents in Russia’s revenue. Lithuania, Finland and Estonia achieved sharp percentage reductions of more than 50%, shows the data.

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