In December, India boosted its Saudi oil imports due to payment issues that resulted in its Russian oil purchases hitting an 11-month low. Information from vessel tracking agencies revealed that a minimum of five shipments of the sweet Sokol variant were redirected to different destinations.
Last month, sources informed Reuters that Indian Oil Corp, initially slated to receive Sokol oil, had to pull from its own stock and supplement with purchases from the Middle East due to a deficit.
The sole state-owned company with an annual agreement to purchase various Russian oil types, including Sokol, from the Russian oil giant Rosneft, is the leading refiner, IOC.
According to calculations by Reuters, based on data from flow tracking agencies such as Vortexa, Kpler, and LSEG, India's oil imports from Russia saw a decrease of 16 per cent to 22 per cent in December.
The importation of Saudi oil increased by approximately 4 per cent, according to data from Kpler and Vortexa.
According to data from LSEG, there was a 22 per cent decrease in India's monthly oil imports from Russia, falling to 1.21 million barrels per day (bpd) in December. Concurrently, Kpler data indicates a 1 per cent reduction to 1.39 million bpd.
Viktor Katona, Kpler's lead crude analyst, suggested that it might be premature to dismiss India's demand for the Sakhalin grade (Sokol). He further noted that three new Sokol shipments on the NS Antarctic, Jaguar, and Vostochny Prospect were en route to India.
The Aframax vessels NS Century, NS Commander, Sakhalin Island, Lityny Prospect, and Krymsk, along with the very large crude carrier Nellis, were transporting Russian Sokol oil for IOC and were en route to the Strait of Malacca, according to the ship tracking data from Kpler and LSEG.
The NS Century was subjected to penalties by the United States in November for selling Russian oil at a cost exceeding the G7 nations' set limit of $60 per barrel. Since then, it has been adrift near Colombo.
"Some cargoes seem to view China as their ultimate destination," stated Katona.
Nishtha Anushree is Senior Sub-editor at Swarajya. She tweets at @nishthaanushree.
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