Daily Management Review

US-Russia Oil Imports: No Room for Geopolitics when Business Comes to Play


There is two trends in relations between the US and Russia in recent years: a significant increase in oil production in the United States and increased tension between the two countries for the first time after the end of Cold War, due to the situation in Ukraine.

(c) Ria News
(c) Ria News
Therefore, it may seem odd that imports of Russian oil to the United States for the past two months has reached an average of the highest levels of the past three years.

Data of tracking maritime transport shows that in June and July, the United States imported an average of more than 70 thousand barrels of Russian oil a day.

This is the first time since 2012, when imports reached such a high level for two consecutive months. Overall, more than 4.6 million barrels of Russian oil was imported to refineries in the United States.

So what's going on? It seems that short-term gains from trade between the two countries prevail over geopolitics.

World's excess oil on the market, which has been particularly acute in the North-West Europe in June and July, led to the fact that prices for trucking reached multi-year lows in the region, and this in turn led to an increase in deliveries from Russia to the US East Coast.

Oil refineries in Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania were the largest buyers of Russian oil over the past two months, according to these data.

This was facilitated by reducing the gap in price between Brent crude and West Texas Intermediate, which is an etalon in the United States - the so-called Brent-WTI-spread.

Thus, it was economically advantageous to send oil to the West, especially given the relatively low cost of sea oil transport compared to rail transportation from shale deposits in North Dakota.

- It's all really in the price: if the oil products or raw materials have a good price, then they become more attractive in the global market if there are no restrictions, - said Gary Ross, CEO of consulting agency in Pira Energy Group.

Despite the fact that the sanctions that have been imposed against Russia because of the Ukrainian crisis, had a negative impact on Moscow's relations with the West, they have not yet ceased to import oil and gas from Russia.

It is likely that the decline in oil prices since last summer hurt the Russian economy more than sanctions.

Another factor that stands behind the high level of deliveries of Russian oil to the United States - a significant increase in Russian exports from the eastern part of the country, which aims in part to open up new markets in Asia, as Europe threatens to diversify its energy imports.

Russian ESPO crude oil, which is exported from the port of Kozmino, comes across Asia to refineries in Hawaii and California, according to the data.

- With the reduction of production in May and June, the refineries started buying more Russian ESPO oil, - said Amrita Sen of Energy Aspects.

Two parties of Russian oil were also delivered across the Atlantic to the US Gulf Coast, including relatively rare batch of Siberian Light Crude Oil.

This data is likely to reflect short-term trends rather than long-term recovery of Russian oil exports to the United States, which in 2009-2010 reached 300 th. barrels per day.

And these supplies represent only a small proportion of total US oil imports, which is an average of more than 7 million barrels per day, despite the significant increase in oil production over the past 5 years.

However, the data also shows that when oil traders have the opportunity to buy goods at an attractive price, things such as geopolitics, have no meaning.