The United States Receives First Russian Oil Shipment

The United States has taken delivery of its first shipment of Russian oil. The shipment arrived in Houston on Wednesday. This delivery is the first of five or six that will be sent to the United States this year according to Mikhail Brudno vice president of Yukos. The 200,000-metric-ton shipment arrived in the Port of Houston aboard the supertanker Astro Lupus. Brudno said the shipment from Yukos, Russia's No. 2 oil producer, had been purchased by Exxon Mobil Corp. and another buyer, whom he declined to identify.

Yukos announced in May that it would send its first tankers to the United States this summer. That announcement followed a summit meeting in Moscow, at which President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin signed an energy cooperation statement. Michael Smith, assistant secretary of energy for fossil fuels, said at a news conference Wednesday that Russia needs to increase its share of world oil exports and the United States must diversify its sources of oil. "I hope this will be the first of many shipments in the future," Smith said.

Russia currently supplies a tiny percentage of U.S. imports, and oil is its chief export. Bruce Misamore, chief financial officer for Yukos, said the company's production jumped 17 percent last year, to 1.1 million barrels per day, prompting it to find an additional market for its crude oil. He said output was expected to grow 20 percent this year, to 1.4 million barrels per day. But shipping to the United States is costly because of Yukos' lack of infrastructure -- primarily deep-water ports -- and increased transportation needs, Misamore said. The company would need to add infrastructure before it can really dent the U.S. market. Yukos could put the Druzhba-Adria oil pipeline into operation, which would allow Russian oil to be shipped from the Omisal port in Croatia. Otherwise, Yukos would need a set price for oil that would cover transportation costs. Misamore said officials haven't decided what they would do during short-term price decreases. "We're looking at the numbers," Misamore said. "We're still looking at the logistics. This is brand new."

High world oil prices drove Russia's economic growth in 2000 and 2001 and lifted Yukos and other Russian oil companies. Yukos announced several weeks ago, however, that its net profit fell last year to $3.5 billion from $3.7 billion in 2000, as a late-2001 decline in crude prices offset higher production and exports.