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Russia Pledges More Oil Data to Ship Trackers

Maritime Activity Reports, Inc.

December 7, 2023

© AUUSanAKUL+ / Adobe Stock

© AUUSanAKUL+ / Adobe Stock

Russia has pledged to disclose more data about the volume of its fuel refining and exports after OPEC+ asked Moscow for more transparency on classified fuel shipments from the many export points across the vast country, sources at OPEC+ and ship-tracking firms told Reuters.

Russia is the only member of OPEC+ which contributes to export cuts rather than production cuts as part of its participation in the group's agreement to curb supplies. Market analysts have struggled to verify the exact volumes of cuts achieved by Moscow.

Deputy Energy Minister Pavel Sorokin made the offer to provide more information last week in a call with six ship-tracking consultancies and price reporting agencies tasked by OPEC+ to work with Moscow on the issue, three sources told Reuters.

Sorokin told the firms - S&P Global Platts, Argus Media, Energy Intelligence, Wood Mackenzie, Rystad and Kpler – Moscow would provide more data on crude production, inventories and refinery fuel output to give a more comprehensive picture on its compliance, according to the sources, one of whom attended the meeting.

"Sorokin was trying to persuade the trackers that Russia fully complied with the deal," one of the sources said.

Details of the call, which took place on Nov. 28, have not been previously reported.

Sorokin did not respond to a request for comment.

Rystad said it was one of the secondary sources chosen by OPEC and its estimates were available for OPEC's research organization. Argus, Woodmac and Kpler declined to comment, while Energy Intelligence and S&P Global Platts have not immediately replied to requests for comment.

Russia has made its oil production and exports data classified since the West imposed sanctions on Moscow following the start of the conflict in Ukraine in February 2022.

Russian officials have said the country should not reveal information that would make it easier for its foes in the West to monitor and sanction Russian shipments.

Russia is the world's second-largest oil and fuel exporter after Saudi Arabia with overall volumes of around 6-7 million bpd.

Tough task
Russian fuel exports were complex to tally even before they became a state secret as the country uses dozens of ports, rail terminals and border crossings to export many different fuels.

Russia has around 30 large and 80 small refineries, which together process over 5 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude.

OPEC+ delayed its meeting last week by several days to November 30 due to what sources said were disagreements over production levels by some members, including Nigeria and Angola. The group finally agreed to deepen cuts to around 6 million bpd or 6% of global output.

Under an earlier deal with OPEC+, Russia pledged to reduce its oil exports by 300,000 bpd until the end of 2023. The latest deal calls on Russia to additionally cut its fuel exports by 200,000 bpd in the first quarter of 2024.

Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said in an interview with Bloomberg that OPEC+ wanted more assurances from Moscow it would deliver on its pledge. He said Russia would be meeting with the ship tracking firms every month to provide data but gave no further detail.

Prince Abdulaziz said he would have preferred to see Russia cutting oil output rather than exports.

But he added he understood the challenges Russia was facing with cutting oil output in winter months because doing so in freezing temperatures can damage reservoirs.

The idea of export rather than production cuts was first publicly floated by Igor Sechin, the powerful head of Russian energy giant Rosneft and a long-standing ally of President Vladimir Putin, in June.

"OPEC itself had a poor track record of production discipline in the 1980s and 1990s," BCS Global Markets analyst Ronald Smith said, adding that Saudi had traditionally "bore an outsized share of the burden of cutting production".

"It is unsurprising that Saudi Arabia would be concerned with confirming that Russia, the second-largest member in OPEC+ by production, is producing and exporting the amount of oil it says it is," he added.

According to Reuters calculations, Russia's total oil products exports stood at 98.8 million metric tons, or round 2 million barrels per day, in January-November 2023.

After the European Union banned Russian fuel imports, Russia diverted Europe-bound exports of diesel and other fuels to Brazil, Turkey, North and West Africa and the Middle East.

Turkey and the Middle East, which have their own major refineries, have since become Europe's top fuel suppliers, often blending their own fuels with those from Russia or with refined products made from Russian oil.


(Reuters - Additional reporting by Reuters OPEC team; Editing by Simon Webb and David Evans)

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