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Russia’s Flagship Oil Is Moving Ever Closer to $60-a-Barrel Price Cap

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April 11, 2023

By Sharon Cho (Bloomberg) —

The price of Russian oil is nearing a threshold that could create complications for the country’s biggest buyers. 

The Group of Seven nations last year imposed a cap of $60 a barrel on crude shipped from Russia to limit the Kremlin’s profits amid the war in Ukraine. Buyers who pay above that level lose access to industry-standard insurance under the sanctions.

The price of Russia’s flagship Urals crude at the point of export is getting closer to the $60 limit, data from Argus Media Ltd. show. The delivered price of the grade to India’s west coast — including shipping costs — was actually more than $73 a barrel as of April 6.

It’s getting increasingly difficult to assess the actual price of Russian crude, due to the emergence of a shadow fleet of vessels and trading companies with unclear affiliations. However, oil prices soared following last week’s shock announcement by OPEC+ to cut output, and global demand is expected to increase later this year, adding further upward pressure.

For much of the past year, Russian oil exports have surged, with much of it going to India and China. But increasingly tighter sanctions are starting to bite, and Russia has pledged to cut output through the end of the year. The country’s seaborne exports just saw their biggest weekly drop since December, tanker-tracking data compiled by Bloomberg show.

A gap of about $18 a barrel exists between the point of shipping and delivery of Urals cargoes in Argus’s data. The Russian grade shipped from the Baltic port Primorsk and Novorossiysk on the Black Sea costs about $55 a barrel.  

The delivered price of Russian oil to India averaged $72.14 a barrel in February, the most recent month for available data, according to the South Asian nation’s ministry of commerce and industry. That’s marginally lower than in January. 

While Russian crude is getting pricier, there are signs that it’s still cheap enough to undercut other suppliers. The cost of Iraqi crude to India dropped to an average of $76.19 a barrel in February, compared with $78.92 in January, according to India’s ministry.

–With assistance from Jack Wittels and Rakesh Sharma.

© 2023 Bloomberg L.P.

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