March 2022
Oil prices surged to the highest since 2014 this month, partly fuelled by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Any scenario in which westbound flows from the world’s second-largest crude exporter slump would have a significant impact on what is an already tight oil market.
The reality, though, is that Europe and Russia’s mutual oil-market dependence would make any major disruption in exports surprising and economically destructive for both Moscow and Europe if tensions were ever to result in a significant reduction in westbound crude. About 2.3Mbpd of Russian crude or about US$75bn a year at current spot prices, heads west each day through a network of pipelines to export terminals on the Baltic and Black Seas, as well as pouring directly into refineries in central and eastern Europe. Flows of refined products -- mostly diesel, fuel oil and naphtha -- supplement that revenue. Europe's exposure to Russian oil supply risks in the wake of the attack has pressured prices for Moscow's key medium sour crude export grade Urals. In January 2022, the Brent – Urals Siberia price differential was US$3.6/bbl, by February the price differential had surged to US$15.7/bbl reflecting the commencement of hostilities between Russia and Ukraine.