Europe Braces for Diesel Deluge

Europe Braces for Diesel Deluge
Europe's diesel imports are set to soar to levels last seen before the pandemic.

Europe’s diesel imports are set to soar to levels last seen before the pandemic, even as cargoes from top-supplier Russia subside. 

Shipments of diesel-type fuels to the continent are expected to jump to 1.45 million barrels a day this month, the highest since August 2019, according to Bloomberg calculations using data from energy analytics firm Vortexa Ltd. 

Flows from Russia will account for 43% of the April total -- shrinking to the lowest since December -- compared with an average of 56% for all of last year. 

Europe is racing to diversify its energy supplies following President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, and many companies in the oil industry are avoiding Russian cargoes amid an evolving raft of trade sanctions. Shipments from other regions are now more than compensating for the loss of Russian diesel supplies.

“This jump in flows is the response from European buyers seeking to lower exposure to or self-sanctioning Russian diesel,” said Jay Maroo, senior market analyst at Vortexa. “Non-Russian origin diesel imports into Europe have almost doubled month-to-month in April.”

Cargoes from the Middle East are expected to more than double on a monthly basis, reaching the highest level since October 2020. Imports from India are set to hit a six-month high. Diesel exports from the U.S. have also jumped, pushing arrivals in Europe to the highest in nine months. 

Europe’s diesel crack -- the difference between the price of the fuel versus crude oil -- surged to record levels after the start of the war in Ukraine. A busy refinery maintenance period has also contributed to Europe’s market tightness. 

“Europe has been the region where diesel cracks have been the highest, to pull in cargoes from other regions,” said Jonathan Leitch, an oil analyst at Turner, Mason & Co. “These cargoes are needed to meet strong demand currently and to make up for expected shortfalls in Russian diesel imports.”

Europe still remains heavily reliant on Russian diesel, and supplies of any origin are still allowed to be traded on the continent, even as international sanctions mount on Moscow.  

“There is some uncertainty as there are some signs that high prices are limiting diesel demand,” Leitch said. “We also don’t know how far diesel imports from Russia will fall.”

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