Russian oil shipments hit their highest ever August level this month, according to data from the Institute of International Finance, in the latest sign that the country’s energy exports are holding up much better than expected.
The IIF also found that Greek-owned tankers were playing the biggest role in helping Russia’s oil get to international markets, after digging into the shell companies that own ships.
The capacity of oil tankers departing Russian ports — a proxy for exports — came in at just under 160 million barrels in August, IIF chief economist Robin Brooks said on Twitter on Tuesday. That was more than in any August in any prior year, he said.
“Russia exports most of its crude via foreign-owned oil tankers,” Brooks said. “Volume of those shipments in August 2022 exceeds any prior year, thanks to Greek-owned oil tankers who shifted capacity to transport Russian oil.”
In a previous tweet, he said: “Russia is exporting more crude than ever.”
The August figure was down from the roughly 180 million barrels exported in May but is unusually high for the month, the IIF data showed. It is the most recent indication of the strength of Russia’s energy exports.
Many commentators, including analysts at the International Energy Agency, said Russian oil exports and production would fall sharply following its invasion of Ukraine in late February as Western buyers steered clear of the country’s commodities.
Yet Russia has in fact pivoted towards China and India, which have stepped up their purchases of the country’s oil, which has been trading at a discount on international markets.
Data from the IEA this month showed that Russian oil exports averaged 7.75 million barrels a day in the first seven months of the year, up from the 7.5 million average seen in 2021 as a whole.
Russia is using its status as a commodities superpower to pile pressure on Europe’s economy as tensions run high over Ukraine. On Wednesday it stopped the flow of natural gas through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to Europe, after cutting it to just 20% of capacity in July.
However, analysts expect Russian oil exports and production to fall when an embargo by the European Union comes into force over the coming months.
IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol told Reuters on Monday that he expects production to begin to fall as sanctions bite.
“In the absence of (western) companies, in the absence of the technology providers, in the absence of service companies, it will be much harder for Russia to maintain the production,” he said.