Refined Russian oil continues to flow into the UK through a ‘loophole’

Despite the sanctions, the UK is still importing millions of barrels of fuel made from Russian oil. 

The United Kingdom is one of many Western countries that have banned imports of oil and petroleum products originating in Russia in an effort to reduce the amount of revenue Moscow can generate from fossil fuels.

But two separate reports obtained by the BBC suggest that refining rules allow products made from Russian crude oil to enter the UK.

China and India can import Russia crude oil refine it and export petroleum products

This “refining loophole” means that countries such as India and China, which have not imposed sanctions on the Kremlin, can legally import Russian crude oil and refine it into petroleum products such as jet fuel and diesel, the Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA) said.

These states then export these products to Britain or the EU.

“The problem with this loophole is that it increases the demand for Russian oil and allows for more sales, and it also increases the price, which increases the money that goes into the Kremlin’s war chest,” said Isaac Levy, head of European-Russian policy and energy analysis at CREA.

The UK imported 5.2 million barrels of petroleum products made from Russian crude oil – GW

In a separate research paper, Global Witness estimated that in 2023, the UK imported about 5.2 million barrels of petroleum products made from Russian crude oil.

One in 20 flights in the UK used jet fuel, which accounted for 4.6 million barrels of the imported fuel, according to the group’s researchers.

CREA’s exclusive data provided to the BBC shows that the UK imported petroleum products worth £569 million derived from Russian oil during the first 12 months of the ban on Russian oil since December 2022.

Both reports claim that the so-called loophole has indirectly provided the Kremlin with more than £100 million in tax revenues.

Key imports from three refineries in India

They also say that the bulk of the imports came mainly from three refineries in India—Jamnagar, Vadinar, and New Mangalore—as well as from nine others in several countries, including China.

Most of CREA’s and Global Witness’ estimates were based on an analysis of oil supply data from the analytical company Kpler, while price data was based on Eurostat and some other sources.

Both CREA and Global Witness stated that both studies were based on assumptions and acknowledged the problems and limitations of analyzing such trade.

Data from the International Energy Agency shows that India’s imports of Russian oil have increased since the start of the war in Ukraine.

The UK announced its intention to abandon Russian oil in March 2022, immediately after the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion.

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