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Concerns grow that India being used as potential ‘back door’ into Europe for Russian oil

London, June 26, 2022- Concerns are growing that India is being used as a potential back door into Europe for Russian oil supplies, given the surge in imports, media reports said.

The huge blue and red hull of the SCF Primorye came into port at Vadinar in western Gujarat earlier this month. The 84,000-tonne oil tanker, built in 2009 and sailing under the Liberian flag, had arrived from the port at Ust-Luga, a settlement in Russia near the border with Estonia, The Guardian reported.

Until 2017, the Vadinar oil refinery was controlled by Essar – the Indian owner of the Stanlow refinery in Ellesmere Port. Since then a consortium including the sanctioned Russian state-owned oil firm Rosneft and the commodities trader Trafigura, which holds a 24.5 per cent stake, have owned Nayara Energy, which runs the refinery, it said.

The tanker’s arrival came as India ramped up imports of Russian oil. The nation’s willingness to snap up Russian crude at discounts of up to 30 per cent has undermined efforts from the US, Europe, and the UK to deplete Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war coffers by curtailing imports. Russia raked in $20bn from oil exports in May, bouncing back to pre-invasion levels. Now, concerns are growing that India is being used as a potential back door into Europe for Russian oil supplies, given the surge in imports, The Guardian said.

Before the invasion of Ukraine, India’s imports of Russian oil were negligible due to high freight costs. But recently, imports of Russian oil to India have increased.

The volumes that India has been buying and exporting, however, suggest that some of the refined Russian crude may ultimately be used in Europe’s filling stations. It is not clear where the Russian crude brought into Vadinar on the SCF Primorye will be used. Vadinar’s owner declined to comment on the shipment or whether it was shipping Russian oil to Europe, The Guardian reported.

In May, India imported about 800,000 barrels of oil per day from Russia in Mayand the rating agency Fitch predicts that imports could soon increase further to 1m barrels per day, or 20 per cent of India’s total imports. India, China and the United Arab Emirates have picked up the slack as Russian crude oil imports into the EU fell by 18 per cent in May.

Putin told the Brics (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) business summit this week that “Russian oil supplies to China and India are growing noticeably”.

India’s 1.4 billion-strong population gives it reason to seek cheap supplies. But it’s a dangerous political game. “India is walking a tightrope,” said Alan Gelder, the Vice President of Refining, Chemicals, and Oil Markets at Wood Mackenzie. “If you take too much, you do not want the west to sanction the rest of your economy,” The Guardian reported.

The Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air said Jamnagar refinery in Gujarat received 27 per cent of its oil from Russia in May, up from 5 per cent in April. It said about 20 per cent of exported cargoes from Jamnagar left for the Suez Canal, indicating that they were heading to Europe or the US. Shipments were made to France, Italy, and the UK. However, there is no evidence that these shipments included Russian oil, The Guardian reported.  (Agency)

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