MOSCOW: Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter, more than doubled the amount of Russian fuel oil it imported in the second quarter to feed power stations to meet summer cooling demand and free up the kingdoms own crude for export, data showed and traders said.

Russia has been selling fuel at discounted prices after international sanctions over its invasion of Ukraine left it with fewer buyers. Moscow calls the war in Ukraine a “special military operation”.

The increased sales of fuel oil, used in power generation, to Saudi Arabia show the challenge that US President Joe Biden faces as his administration seeks to isolate Russia and cut its energy export revenues.

While many countries have banned or discouraged purchases from Russia, China, India and several African and Middle Eastern nations have increased imports.

Biden was on Friday visiting Saudi Arabia and was expected to seek an increase in oil supply to global markets from the kingdom to help to lower oil prices that have aggravated inflation worldwide.

There is little spare capacity for Saudi and others to increase production in the short term. Saudi Arabia has also maintained its cooperation with Russia in the alliance of global producers known as Opec+. The two are the de facto leaders of respectively Opec and non-Opec producers in that group.

Data obtained by Reuters through Refinitiv Eikon ship tracking showed Saudi Arabia imported 647,000 tonnes (48,000 barrels per day) of fuel oil from Russia via Russian and Estonian ports in April-June this year. That was up from 320,000 tonnes in the same period a year ago.

For the full year 2021, Saudi Arabia imported 1.05 million tonnes of Russian fuel oil.

Saudi Arabian and Russian energy ministries declined to comment on the increased imports.

Published in Dawn, July 16th, 2022

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