Petrol imports to Russia spike after restrictions removal

After the removal of a ban on refined oil product imports imposed to protect the country’s refining industry from foreign rivalry, supplies of petrol to Russia increased sharply in November. However, fuel demand is still far from pre-coronavirus levels.

Russia’s imports of petrol surged eight times in November month on month, as the four-month ban on refined oil product imports ended in October, says citing data from Russia’s Federal Customs Service. The Russian government imposed restrictions on imports of refined oil products including petrol, diesel and jet fuel in June 2020. A crash in oil prices in early April made refined oil products outside Russia cheaper, while in Russia, the price of fuels didn’t change much due to the specifics of regulation. According to the government’s decree, the ban was aimed to ensure the energy security of the Russian Federation and stabilise the domestic fuel market.

Spring lockdowns brought demand for oil products at Russia’s petrol stations down by 40-50%, said ex-Minister of Energy (currently Deputy Prime Minister) Alexander Novak at the end of April. Amid low local and global demand, petrol production at Russia’s oil refineries collapsed to the lowest level in 15 years in May. Later in June, Russia’s Independent Fuel Union stated that the local market shouldn’t expect a return of demand to pre-coronavirus levels in the following six months.

On 18 January, Russia’s Federal Customs Service published data on fuel imports in January-November 2020. According to the report, imports of petrol to Russia jumped eightfold in November from October in terms of volumes and sevenfold in terms of value. November imports amounted to $4,9 billion, reads the data.

Meanwhile, Russian air carriers, which account for a substantial part of local oil product consumption, registered a 46% drop in passenger traffic last year, as the state borders remained largely closed. In 2020, Russian airlines carried collectively 69,17 million passengers. The pandemic-driven crisis in the air travel industry threw Russian commercial aviation nine years back. In 2011, the country’s airlines carried around 64 million passengers, while in 2012, the number grew to 74 million. State-backed national carrier Aeroflot showed the sharpest fall in the number of passengers but still managed to retain its leader status for 2020 with 14,6 million travellers (a drop of 61% year on year).

By Anna Litvina