Russian oil trade in disarray over sanctions as prices blast through $100/bbl

* Russian buyers dry up, importers scramble for other supplies

* Benchmarks surge above $100/bbl, Russian oil at huge discount

* Russia is second largest crude exporter

* Traders avoid oil delivered via CPC pipeline - sources

By Ron Bousso, Julia Payne and Dmitry Zhdannikov

LONDON, March 1 (Reuters) - Russian oil trade was in disarray on Tuesday as producers postponed sales, importers rejected Russian ships and buyers worldwide searched elsewhere for needed crude after a raft of sanctions imposed on Moscow over the war in Ukraine.

Numerous nations imposed sweeping sanctions against Russian companies, banks and individuals following Russia's invasion of Ukraine last week and global majors announced plans to leave multi-million-dollar positions in Russia.

U.S., European and other governments exempted energy trade from sanctions to prevent already tight markets rallying further, but that has failed.

Global benchmark Brent crude LCOc1 settled at nearly $105 a barrel on Tuesday, its highest since August 2014, as refiners, traders and oil majors steer clear of Russia, out of an abundance of caution that they may unwittingly run afoul of sanctions somewhere.

Russia is the second largest exporter of crude worldwide, trailing only Saudi Arabia, as it ships out 4 million to 5 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude, along with 2 million to 3 million bpd of refined products. With demand already surging past pre-pandemic levels and major producers struggling to keep up, market players are increasingly fearful that prices will keep rising.

The knock-on effects of sanctions were felt all across the oil market on Tuesday. Russia's key Urals oil grade was bid at a discount of more than $18 below physical Brent crude, the primary worldwide benchmark, a record in the post-Soviet era. Even at that price, traders have been unable to find willing buyers.

"Nobody wants to buy, ship or store Russian oil," a trader of Russian oil said.

In response to the severity of the disruption, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said it would coordinate a release of 60 million barrels of oil reserves from big consumers, with half coming from the United States.

The market responded by rallying even more, seeing the release - the equivalent to less than a day's worldwide oil consumption - as underscoring the worldwide supply crunch.

Traders in futures markets aggressively pushed the price of current Brent contracts to more than $15 higher than contracts that will deliver oil six months from now. That was also a record, and indicative of growing worries about tight supply. LCOc1-LCOc7


Even non-Russian oil has been snagged in the turmoil.

Five traders who spoke with Reuters said buyers were avoiding oil delivered by the CPC pipeline - which delivers more than 1 million bpd from Kazakhstan, or over 1% of world supply - because it can mix with Russian grades and terminates at a Russian port on the Black Sea, traders said.

"It's an important source of supply - over a million barrels a day - into a world which right now really needs that oil supply," Chevron Chief Executive Mike Wirth said in a Tuesday call with reporters.

Chevron Corp CVX.N has a 15% stake in CPC and a 50% stake in Tengizchevroil (TCO), which is developing crude oil fields in western Kazakhstan.

Rival energy firms BP BP.L , Equinor EQNR.OL and Shell RDSa.L have abandoned multibillion-dollar positions in Russia, and BP has already cancelled all of its fuel oil loadings from the Russian Black Sea port of Taman, sources familiar with the matter said.

Exxon Mobil Corp XOM.N said it was pulling U.S. employees from Russia, even though it has not said it will give up operations there.

Buyers around the world were trying to secure supplies from elsewhere. State-run Indian refiner Bharat Petroleum Corp BPCL.NS , which buys roughly 2 million barrels of Russian Urals monthly, is seeking more oil from Middle Eastern producers for April.

Canada said on Monday it would ban oil imports from Russia.

U.S. traders have started shunning Russian barrels, while Asian buyers were awaiting clarity from banks on whether they can transact with Russian sellers.

The Malaysian government said a Russian-flagged oil tanker targeted by U.S. sanctions will not be allowed to call at Kuala Linggi port.

European Union countries are considering a ban on Russian ships entering ports in the bloc. Britain said on Monday it would deny entry to British ports to all ships that are Russian owned, operated, controlled, chartered, registered or flagged.


Russia, meanwhile, is expected to boost supplies to China. Oil pipeline monopoly Transneft TRNF_p.MM , which handles more than 80% of total oil produced in Russia, plans to increase supplies to China via the ESPO pipeline this month to 2.48 million tonnes from 2.22 million tonnes in February, according to TASS news agency.

Some Russian oil companies have stopped banking with sanctioned lenders, including VTB VTBR.MM and Sberbank SBER.MM , and switched to those that do not face restrictions, including Rosbank ROSB.MM , Unicredit CRDI.MI and Raiffeisen RBIV.VI , five people familiar with the matter told Reuters.

Reporting by Ron Bousso, Dmitry Zhdannikov, Julia Payne; Additional reporting by Sabrina Valle, Noah Browning, Shadia Nasralla, Florence Tan, Nidhi Verma, Laura Sanicola, and Jarrett Renshaw; Editing by David Gaffen, Mark Heinrich and Marguerita Choy

Disclaimer: The XM Group entities provide execution-only service and access to our Online Trading Facility, permitting a person to view and/or use the content available on or via the website, is not intended to change or expand on this, nor does it change or expand on this. Such access and use are always subject to: (i) Terms and Conditions; (ii) Risk Warnings; and (iii) Full Disclaimer. Such content is therefore provided as no more than general information. Particularly, please be aware that the contents of our Online Trading Facility are neither a solicitation, nor an offer to enter any transactions on the financial markets. Trading on any financial market involves a significant level of risk to your capital.

All material published on our Online Trading Facility is intended for educational/informational purposes only, and does not contain – nor should it be considered as containing – financial, investment tax or trading advice and recommendations; or a record of our trading prices; or an offer of, or solicitation for, a transaction in any financial instruments; or unsolicited financial promotions to you.

Any third-party content, as well as content prepared by XM, such as: opinions, news, research, analyses, prices and other information or links to third-party sites contained on this website are provided on an “as-is” basis, as general market commentary, and do not constitute investment advice. To the extent that any content is construed as investment research, you must note and accept that the content was not intended to and has not been prepared in accordance with legal requirements designed to promote the independence of investment research and as such, it would be considered as marketing communication under the relevant laws and regulations. Please ensure that you have read and understood our Notification on Non-Independent Investment. Research and Risk Warning concerning the foregoing information, which can be accessed here.

We are using cookies to give you the best experience on our website. Read more or change your cookie settings.

Risk Warning: Your capital is at risk. Leveraged products may not be suitable for everyone. Please consider our Risk Disclosure.