Russia has much more than a mine of money in fossil fuels, the mainstay of an economy that is on track to suffer its biggest blow in three decades this year. In the two months since Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine on February 24, the Eurasian giant has earned 63,000 million euros from its oil, gas and coal exports, according to the latest figures published this Thursday by the thinktank environmentalist Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA). That figure has to do, to a large extent, with high energy prices, which have more than offset the drop in sales to the European Union.
The largest community economy, Germany, is by far the country in the world that has contributed the most to this extra income: 9,100 million euros have come out of the pockets of German consumers destined for Russia, mostly as consideration for the gas received by tube. It is followed by Italy (6.9 billion), China (6.7 billion), the Netherlands (5.6 billion), Turkey (4.1 billion) and France (3.8 billion). By blocks, the EU —which has no material way of substituting energy from Russia in the very short term— was responsible for 71% of Russian income from sales of crude oil, gas and coal: in total, the Twenty-seven paid 44,000 million to Moscow.
One sixth of oil, natural gas and coal shipments reached just six European ports: two in the Netherlands (Rotterdam and Maasvlakte), one in Italy (Trieste), one more in Poland (Gdansk) and one in Belgium (Bruges). . However, a substantial part of the arrivals in the EU, especially of gas but also of crude oil, do so by tube, especially to the countries of the center and east of the bloc.
Hence, in the immediate term, it is not easy for Moscow to find alternative buyers to its traditional European partners: “In the short term, Russia has no alternative to European demand. Alternative liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals and tube connections [hacia otros destinos] they simply do not exist”, point out the CREA technicians. Outside of Europe, they add, the Kremlin has “difficult to find buyers for its crude oil and coal, since there are few refineries and power plants designed for their use.”
A “key” source of resources for Moscow
There has, however, been a sharp rise in the amount of Russian crude that reached a bunch of recipients that were unusual before the war: Egypt and, above all, India, which are taking advantage of the deep discounts that Moscow is offering for obligation, given the toxicity of its products in the West. There has also been a “considerable” increase in the number of ships leaving Russian ports with no definite destination, hoping to find buyers.
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Despite the initial impulse of several oil companies to stop doing business in Russia, CREA documents how ships or infrastructure linked to big names in the sector (including the American Exxon Mobil, the British Shell and BP, the French Total and the Spanish Repsol, among others) participated in this type of exchange. Also some of the older traders and refiners of raw materials on the planet, such as Trafigura, Neste or Formosa, and steel companies such as Japan’s Nippon Steel or South Korea’s Hyundai Steel, are participating in this type of operation.
“[Las exportaciones energéticas] they are a key element for the Putin regime and the biggest hole in the sanctions”, points out Lauri Myllyvirta, an analyst at CREA. “We encourage all corporations and governments to end purchases and impose punitive tariffs: all imported fossil fuels [de Rusia] they can be replaced in the medium term with clean energy and energy efficiency if we start investing in this objective today”.