New Delhi (Reuters) – Record high imports of crude oil from Russia in fiscal 2022-23 helped India’s refiners boost exports of diesel and jet fuel to Europe as the continent shunned Russian products, preliminary ship-tracking data from Kpler and Vortexa showed.
Access to cheap Russian crude has boosted output and profits at Indian refineries, enabling them to export refined products competitively to Europe and take bigger market share.
Europe typically imported an average of 154,000 barrels per day (bpd) of diesel and jet fuel from India before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
That increased to 200,000 bpd after the European Union banned Russian oil products imports from Feb. 5, Kpler data showed.
India’s imports of Russian crude in March rose for the seventh straight month to end out the fiscal year as top supplier to India, displacing Iraq for the first time, the data showed.
Indian refiners, which rarely bought Russian oil previously due to high transport costs, imported 970,000-981,000 bpd of it in 2022/23, accounting for more than a fifth of overall imports at 4.5-4.6 million bpd, Kpler and Vortexa data showed.
Imports from Iraq slipped to 936,000-961,000 bpd from nearly 1 million bpd in 2021/22, the data showed.
While Russia’s flagship grade Urals makes up the bulk of India’s purchases, refiners are also importing lighter grades from Russia’s Far East and Arctic grades such as Sokol, Arco, Novy Port and ESPO blend.
Russia’s largest oil producer Rosneft (ROSN.MM) and top Indian refiner Indian Oil Corp (IOC.NS) have signed a term deal to substantially increase and diversify oil grades delivered to India.
As Europe’s ban kept Russian products out, India’s diesel exports to the continent rose 12-16% to 150,000-167,000 bpd in the last fiscal year, the Kpler and Vortexa data showed.
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That accounted for about 30% of India’s total gasoil exports, up from 21-24% a year earlier, the data showed.
The key European buyers of Indian diesel are France, Turkey, Belgium and the Netherlands, the Kpler data showed.
Europe accounted for about 50% of India’s jet fuel exports, or around 70,000-75,000 bpd in 2022/23, up 40,000-42,000 bpd the previous year, the data showed.
Besides increasing exports to Europe, India has also boosted vacuum gas oil (VGO) shipments to the U.S.
The U.S. took about 11,000-12,000 bpd of VGO in 2022/23, or 65-81% of India’s overall exports of the refining feedstock that can be processed further to produce fuels such as gasoline and diesel, the data showed.
In 2021/22, India exported only around 500 bpd of VGO to the United States.
However, India’s total annual refined fuel exports in 2022/23 were lower than a year earlier as some refiners shut units for maintenance in later half of 2022.