EU moves closer to banning Russian oil imports, after blocking coal and as confrontation over gas escalates. Fossil fuels accounted for 62% of EU imports from Russia in 2021, or €98.9 billion. As more EU members back Russia’s fossil fuel ban, here’s a look at where the bloc is getting its fuel. Something is loading.
The European Union is moving closer to banning Russian oil in response to President Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine, after it decided to restrict purchases of its crude and block imports of its coal.
Meanwhile, Russia has halted gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria – a move the European Commission chief described as “an instrument of blackmail”.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, governments have responded with a wide range of tough trade restrictions and financial sanctions. Yet it is the EU’s energy trade with Russia that has been at the center of much discussion.
The 27-member bloc has come under pressure to stop its imports of Russian oil and gas, which would deal a huge financial blow to Moscow. But it could also send the EU into a full-blown recession, as energy prices soar and hit already-stressed households.
The problem with oil and gas flows is that the two sides are too dependent on each other for either side to turn the valves off completely.
Here is an overview of Russia-EU energy interdependence.
Oil is one of Russia’s most valuable exports. The country is the world’s third largest producer of crude and ships it all over the world – or at least it used to, until several countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom, stopped imports.
The EU receives around 3.1 million barrels of oil per day from Russia, which covers around 30% of its needs. Russia supplies more oil to the bloc than the next three major suppliers – Iraq, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia – combined. Germany and the Netherlands are the main destinations.
A quarter of this oil arrives by pipeline, and these flows have not yet been interrupted. Most oil arrives by tanker, and it is this supply that commodity traders have voluntarily “self-sanctioned” – i.e. the oil is available but has no or very few takers. .
But the United States is making more deliveries of crude by supertanker to Europe, as countries seek alternative suppliers there. Germany has reduced its dependence on Russian oil to just 12% of its supply, to prepare for sanctions.
The EU has drawn up a draft package of new sanctions which will include measures against imports of Russian oil. He has already said that by May 15, oil purchases from the country’s producers should be limited to the amount “strictly necessary” for energy security.
The pain inflicted on Russia’s finances by an oil embargo would be greater than that of an embargo on coal or natural gas, analysts have said.
“Banning oil imports would hit Russia much harder in terms of revenue than going without natural gas. It is therefore likely that an oil embargo will come sooner than a natural gas import ban,” said Carsten Fritsch, commodities analyst at Commerzbank.
But there are reasons why a full and immediate ban on crude is unlikely to happen, and the EU will likely target sanctions at specific grades of oil. While the EU gets around a third of its oil from Russia, crude is by far the region’s largest energy import. It accounts for about 70% of all energy imports.
EU crude oil imports, by country: Eurostat Eurostat Natural Gas
Natural gas is a much bigger headache. The EU gets 40% of its natural gas needs from Russia, which is the region’s largest supplier, alongside Norway, Algeria and others, according to EU data.
Some countries in the bloc are more dependent on these supplies than others. Germany gets 70% of its gas from Russia, and it will be difficult to find readily available alternative sources.
“The EU energy crisis has been going on for years. 2021 ended with a month of record prices. Natural gas in Europe is now more expensive than oil,” said Christopher Dembik, head of the macroeconomics at Saxo Bank.
Gas prices in Europe soared 28% after Gazprom announced it would stop flows to Poland and Bulgaria because they failed to pay in roubles, as demanded by Russia.
By converting the price of natural gas into a barrel of oil equivalent, it is possible to compare it directly with crude oil. Right now, Dutch natural gas benchmark prices are roughly half of what they were last July, when they hit record highs. But at around $200 a barrel of oil equivalent or more, they are at least double the current price of crude oil.
Selected energy exports from Russia. US Energy Information Administration chart, based on Russia export statistics and partner country import statistics published by Global Trade Tracker Coal
Coal accounts for about 4% of fossil fuel imports from Russia and less than 4% of Russian export earnings. Moreover, Russia is less dependent on the EU for its coal exports than for any other fossil fuel.
However, despite the relatively mild effect of the Russian coal export ban, Rystad Energy’s Power Market Research team believes the impact on Europe will be worse.
“These latest sanctions are a double-edged sword. Russian coal exports are worth around €4 billion a year, and there is no easy replacement for Russian coal like-for-like in the European energy mix,” said Carlos Torres Diaz of Rystad.
“European consumers – from large companies to households – should expect high prices for the rest of 2022, as coal and gas are essential to meet the continent’s electricity demand,” he said. added.
EU solid fuel imports: Eurostat. Eurostat