Even as Russia is likely to maintain its position as India’s top crude oil supplier, owing to the price advantage, the volume of imports from the erstwhile Soviet Union could hit a plateau going ahead.

From almost negligible imports about a year ago, Russia now accounts for more than one-third (39 per cent) of India’s cumulative in-bound shipments, averaging monthly at almost 18 million tonnes in FY23 so far.

Analysts anticipate that the spare Russian capacity, earlier marked for European Union (EU), is almost exhausted, barring instances such as refinery maintenance shutdowns in Russia later in 2023, which could push more supplies in the market.

Imports plateauing

On Russia’s stake increasing further, Kpler’s Lead Analyst (Dirty Products and Refining) Andon Pavlov told businessline: “As for the outright level of imports, the Russian pivot away from Europe and into Asia is mostly finished by now, in our view. What this means is that there is not much extra crude export capacity available to be sent to India, from a Russian perspective.”

The stream to China is mostly established by now, there are some capacities booked for pipeline exports via the Druzhba pipeline, some Russian crude to Turkey and then not much incremental upside from here, he added.

“That being said, it’s not out of the question that if Russian refining faces an unsolvable obstacle, it might be forced to reduce runs and free up some crude for exports, but that remains highly unlikely for the time being. Still, spring refinery maintenance season is now upon us, and we might see a pick-up in crude exports out of Russia over April-May and then September-October, in line with the normal seasonality observed over previous years,” Pavlov said.

A senior official with a domestic refiner said: “For imports to sustain, it’s a different story as various factors are at play like China demand and EU LNG/ gas oil purchase for winters. Better sense will emerge around June when there is clarity on demand. Plus there will be some competition from Saudi Arabia, Iraq as well as South American and African supplies.”