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New York Sends Diesel Cargo to Europe in Rare Trade Flow Reversal

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March 22, 2022

By Chunzi Xu (Bloomberg) —

U.S. fuel markets are getting even tighter as Europe’s scramble for alternatives to Russian diesel flipped New York from a typical import region to an exporter.

In a rare reversal of normal trade flows, New York is sending two diesel cargoes to Europe — which relies on Russia for about a third of its diesel needs — even as regional inventories are at multiyear lows and prices hover close to record highs. 

The flip-flop is an example of how Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is rattling fuel markets around the globe, even though the U.S. is relatively less exposed to Russian exports. High pump prices in the U.S. have become a liability for President Joe Biden, and the burden is growing for truckers and farmers. 

Two tankers, the Falcon Nostos and the Energy Centaur, are carrying more than 700,000 barrels of diesel from New York to Europe, according to Vortexa, Kpler, as well as shipping data compiled by Bloomberg. This is a reversal of recent trade flows, which saw cold-gripped New York Harbor import at least 4.5 million barrels of diesel from Europe and Russia since the start of the year for power generation and home heating. 

Diesel exports from the Gulf coast to Europe are also picking up, with around 103,000 barrels a day heading to the continent so far this month, compared with 19,000 in February, Kpler estimates. This trade route is more common, although it has diminished in the last year or two, with Latin America absorbing much of the U.S. export diesel market. 

But the flow of U.S. clean products will “redirect toward Europe if European buyers are less willing to lift out of Russia,” said Reid I’anson, senior commodity economist at Kpler. 

The transatlantic diesel pull is taking place even as Russian-origin cargoes continue to discharge at European ports. The U.K. has said it will phase out imports of Russian oil, including diesel. 

The arbitrage to ship diesel from the U.S. to Europe remains largely shut on paper, traders say. This means cargo movers risk taking a loss, especially considering the sharp backwardation in the European diesel market — a condition where prices for future deliveries are priced below prompt levels. 

“It’s all a gamble,” one trader said.

–With assistance from Jack Wittels.

© 2022 Bloomberg L.P.

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