Where Will Europe Get Its Diesel From in 23 Days’ Time?

(Bloomberg) — In only over three weeks, seaborne deliveries of diesel from the European Union’s single biggest external supplier shall be all but banned.

Most Read from Bloomberg

Who will step in to plug this enormous supply gap? And, will there be enough? Is the bloc sleepwalking right into a fuel crisis?

The EU imported about 220 million barrels of diesel-type product from Russia last yr, in keeping with Vortexa Ltd. data compiled by Bloomberg. The fuel is important to the bloc’s economy, powering cars, trucks, ships, construction and manufacturing equipment and more.

From Feb. 5, just about all those imports shall be banned in an try and punish Moscow for the war in Ukraine. Replacing that much Russian fuel — imagine about 14,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools all brimming with diesel — is a mighty challenge.

Some progress has already been made. In 2021, greater than half of all seaborne shipments into the EU and UK — which already has a ban in place — got here from Russia. By December last yr, that proportion had fallen to about 40%, partly due to increases from Saudi Arabia and India.

Looking forward, there’s reason to consider the remaining Russian supplies may be covered by barrels from elsewhere.

“The lost Russian supplies shall be replaced,” said Eugene Lindell, head of refined products at consultancy Facts Global Energy.

Nevertheless it’s removed from guaranteed.

The Suppliers

Probably the most obvious place where Europe can get more diesel is the Middle East: it’s fairly close, particularly to countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea — assuming, after all, the Suez Canal doesn’t get blocked — and has huge latest oil refineries coming online that can spew out thousands and thousands of barrels of fuel. Abu Dhabi National Oil Co. has also already agreed a deal to provide Germany.

India and the US, each long-term suppliers to the EU, have also stepped up shipments in recent weeks. US refiners are forecast to provide a record volume of distillates this yr, a category of fuel that features the diesel utilized in trucks and automobiles.

But an important potential resupplier, albeit not directly, may become China.

“China policy is the sport changer,” said Mark Williams, a research director at Wood Mackenzie Ltd. The country “holds the important thing to all the surplus refining capability globally.”

Shipments of diesel out of China have dramatically increased in recent months. While only a fraction of those cargoes sail all of the solution to Europe, they increase regional supplies. That then frees up barrels from other producers which might, in theory, head to Europe.

China’s first fuel export quota for 2023 was up by almost 50% from the identical period a yr earlier, making it unlikely that diesel shipments will plunge back to the low levels seen in early 2022.

Exports of diesel-type fuel from China could possibly be 400,000 to 600,000 barrels a day through the primary half of this yr, Williams said. That’s an analogous volume to what the EU and UK currently stand to lose when it comes to seaborne deliveries from Russia.

“There’s a complete re-jigging when it comes to diesel trade flows from the beginning of February,” he said.

It’s vital to recollect, though, that China has sometimes chosen to prioritize its environment over make the most of exporting fuels. It could accomplish that again.

Potential Problems

But while multiple re-supply options for the EU and UK do exist, there’s also a potentially wider concern: might the EU’s sanctions prompt Russian barrels to vanish from the worldwide market altogether?

If Russia is unable to seek out enough latest, non-EU buyers for its fuels, what then? If it were to consequently cut production at its refineries, that would tighten global supplies, potentially pushing up prices.

Lindell expects the nation’s diesel flows to dip next month and in March — though that’s due to work at oil refineries, in addition to some trade friction because the sanctions take effect.

Even when there are many willing buyers, getting the fuel out of Russia could also be a challenge. Many shippers shall be wary of breaching western sanctions, which is able to stipulate that the value of those cargoes can’t be above a capped level currently being discussed by the G-7.

That mechanism, and the value cap itself — on crude oil, it’s $60 a barrel — has yet to be set for Russian fuels. At the tip of last yr, oil pricing agency Argus Media Ltd. assessed Russian diesel at $926 a ton (about $124 a barrel), with non-Russian $30 a ton (about $4 a barrel) dearer.

If the forthcoming price cap were to be set well below market level, then much of the worldwide tanker fleet can be unable to maintain loading and carrying Russian cargoes in the event that they need to access G-7 services like insurance.

See also: The Fiendish Task of Capping the Price of Russian Fuels

Demand Side

The flip-side to any query about whether the EU can have enough diesel supply going forward is: how strong will demand be?

Recent warm weather in Europe has little doubt helped, likely reducing consumption of heating oil — a diesel-type fuel — and cutting the value of natural gas, which in theory makes it cheaper for oil refineries to make high-quality diesel and in addition reduces the motivation for firms to make use of gas as an alternative of oil for power generation.

“A macroeconomic slowdown has been step by step squashing European diesel demand,” said Benedict George, market reporter at Argus. “Country-by-country data suggests European diesel demand is already not less than 5% down year-on-year. Throughout the 2008 recession, diesel demand fell by around 10% year-on-year at its lowest point.”

That said, Goldman Sachs Group, Inc., not predicts a euro-zone recession after the economy proved more resilient at the tip of last yr.

Turkey Role

The role of potential intermediary countries also shouldn’t be underestimated in helping to cushion the impact of the EU’s ban and the accompanying price cap.

Turkey, as an illustration, which isn’t a part of the EU, could in theory import large volumes of Russian diesel — it already takes a considerable amount — after which use this to provide its domestic market.

The non-Russian diesel it then makes in its own refineries could possibly be sold to the EU, potentially at a much higher price.

“A chronic economic slowdown, warm weather, continued tailwinds from higher Chinese exports and a well-oiled price cap would help global diesel balances remain feasible,” and provides Europe enough alternative to drag in substitute barrels,” said Hedi Grati, head of Europe/CIS refining & marketing at S&P Global Commodity Insights.

“The upper the demand and the steeper the Russian diesel production decline, the more complicated and potentially fractured things could get.”

Most Read from Bloomberg Businessweek

©2023 Bloomberg L.P.

Leave a Comment

Copyright © 2024. All Rights Reserved. Finapress | Flytonic Theme by Flytonic.