Indian refiners buy more US crude as Russia sanctions tighten

By Thomson Reuters Mar 25, 2024 | 8:04 PM

By Arathy Somasekhar

HOUSTON (Reuters) – More than 250,000 barrels per day of U.S. crude is set to arrive in India next month, the highest in more than a year, ship tracking data showed, amid tighter enforcement of sanctions on Russian crude.

India, the world’s third-biggest oil importer and consumer, is looking to diversify its oil supplies as fresh U.S. sanctions on Moscow threaten to dent Russian oil sales to India, the biggest buyer of Russian seaborne crude.

About 7.6 million barrels of oil, or 256,000 barrels per day (bpd), were headed to India on three very large crude carriers and three Suezmax vessels, according to ship tracking firm Kpler.

The ships, which were largely headed to India’s west coast, were chartered by Reliance Industries, Vitol, Equinor and Sinokor, among others, according to data from financial firm LSEG.

India was the top buyer of Russian oil last year after other groups retreated from purchases following Western sanctions on Moscow for its invasion on Ukraine in February 2022.

Last month, the U.S. tightened efforts to reduce Russia’s oil trade adding sanctions on state-owned shipping firm Sovcomflot and 14 crude oil tankers involved in Russian oil transportation.

India’s Reliance, operator of the world’s biggest refining complex, will not buy Russian oil loaded on tankers operated by Sovcomflot after recent U.S. sanctions, sources told Reuters last week.

More Indian refiners plan to shun Sovcomflot vessels, which may weigh on imports of Russian oil and leave Russia with fewer outlets for its flagship product, sources said.

(Reporting by Arathy Somasekhar in Houston; Editing by Marguerita Choy)