West’s biggest Commodity Traders still buy Russian oil & gas
Biggest Commodity Trading Houses In The West Continue To Buy Russian Oil And Gas
Despite headline-grabbing maneuvers by the big western oil giants (Shell, BP, Exxon-Mobil etc.) to simply walk away from certain Russian projects, commodity traders like Trafigura, Vitol and Glencore have all loaded cargos of oil, gas and fuel onto tankers at Russian ports, which is just the latest evidence that the west can’t simply go without Russia’s commodity wealth (as Chinese analysts have explained, Russia is one of the richest countries in the world when it comes to natural commodity wealth). And it’s not just industrial commodities: the Middle East and Africa depend on exports of Russian wheat.
This commodity might is why Credit Suisse’s Zoltan Poszar proclaimed this week that the new international financial order, which he called “Bretton Woods III” will be based around commodities and the currencies of the countries that export them.
It’s also why the big commodities trading houses that we mentioned above have no plans to stop buying Russian oil or gas, as the Times of London explains.
Trafigura, Vitol and Glencore have all loaded cargos of oil products on to tankers in Russian ports this week, even as Russia’s attacks on Ukraine intensified, shipping data shows.
The commodities traders have come under less scrutiny over their ties with Russia than the oil majors and have not made any commitments to stop buying Russian oil.
And even Shell, BP and the majors will continue to buy commodities from Russia, as they have already promised.
Shell is contracted to buy liquefied natural gas from Russian projects until 2035 and has given no timescale for its planned “phased withdrawal” from this. BP has pledged to quit its stake in Rosneft, the Kremlin-backed oil company, but is contracted to buy fuel from Rosneft in Germany and has said only that it is “reviewing” its commitments.
This might seem like a contradiction after the Biden Administration announced on Tuesday that Americans would face an immediate ban on new contracts for Russian oil, with a 45-day grace period for buyers to see out existing deals. The UK has made similar assurances as Ukraine has called for a global embargo on buyers of Russian oil and gas.
But the big commodity trading houses likely have contracts to continue buying Russian oil and gas for years, or even decades, hence. There’s plenty of data to show that their Russian business has continued uninterrupted.
Many western companies have stopped buying oil and oil products from Russia voluntarily, but analysis of shipping data by SourceMaterial, an investigative journalism organisation, shows that commodities trading houses are still doing business there.
On Wednesday, an Indian-registered tanker, the JAG Laxmi, was docked at Taman in Russia on the Black Sea to take on a cargo of vacuum gas oil, a petroleum by-product. The tanker is understood to have been chartered by Trafigura and the cargo supplied by Rosneft.
At another Russian Black Sea port, Tuapse, Glencore was due this week to load a charter vessel, the Gulf Coral, with 60,000 tonnes of naphtha, the raw material for solvents, also from Rosneft. A similar Glencore cargo left Tuapse earlier in the week.
To be sure, there’s no evidence to suggest that the three commodity trading houses have violated any sanctions.
SourceMaterial’s data also shows that since the February 24 invasion Vitol loaded or was due to load seven cargos of oil products including diesel, naphtha and liquid petroleum gas, some of them from Rosneft. Vitol’s cargos alone are estimated to be worth nearly $100 million.
There is no suggestion that the three traders have broken sanctions, but the disclosures highlight the extent of continued energy trade with Russia even as many companies in other sectors make immediate moves to cut ties.
Spokespeople for all three firms told the Times that they weren’t in violation of any sanctions, and that they were continuing to abide by contracts signed long before the invasion of Ukraine began.
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