MOSCOW: Higher shipments of Russian crude oil to China may saddle European importers with a fatter bill, an industry consultancy warned at the end of last year, noting the latest stage of Russia’s Eastern pivot: the launch of the expanded East Siberia-Pacific Ocean pipeline that would lift Urals crude supply to China twofold, to 30 million tons annually.
FGE said in a note quoted by Bloomberg that Russia will start moving more Urals eastward right after the launch of the pipeline extension, at a rate of 160,000 bpd. The overall increase of Russian crude shipments to China, according to the consultancy, could be around 200,000 bpd.
This means less oil for Europe, which is Russia’s number-one oil client. This only highlights the significance of Moscow’s Asian pivot amid lingering European sanctions following the 2014 annexation of Crimea and Russia’s involvement in separatist conflicts in the Ukraine.
In 2016, Russia exported an average 3.7 million barrels daily to European countries, compared with less than a million bpd to China, according to figures from the Energy Information Administration (EIA). In percentage figures, Europe accounted for 70 percent of Russia’s 2016 crude oil exports, while the share of China was just 18 percent. Yet this is changing fast, as this chart from the EIA shows:
The rise in Chinese exports has been quite steep since 2014: as of November last year, Russia shipped 1.3 million barrels of oil daily to China. All the latest signs point to further growth. However, exactly how much this would hurt European buyers is unclear.