India is set to get more channels to buy cheap Russian oil, with a new wave of smaller, international traders muscling into its vast market by offering barrels shunned by rivals after the invasion of Ukraine.
State-run refiners like Indian Oil Corporation are warming to the idea of buying from lesser-known traders. Refinery officials said they found it easier to work with Russian producers than with them directly, as there is less bureaucracy that slows negotiations with firms like Rosneft PJSC.
Companies including Wellbred and Montfort are marketing Russian oil to Indian buyers, joining the likes of Coral Energy and Everest Energy as more traders emerge to fill the gap left by big players such as Vitol Group, officials said. According to their websites, the companies have offices in Switzerland, Dubai and Singapore.
No one responded to emails sent to IOC, Wellbred and Montfort, and Rosneft did not respond to a request for comment. Traders and shipbrokers said they did not know much about the firms, except that they handle fuel from time to time.
Business houses often act as middlemen by bridging the differences between sellers and buyers. In theory, some companies could continue to work with Russian entities that have been sanctioned under certain jurisdictions, to help with financing and logistics, and even to assist with the movement of funds. Also offer different payment terms. Sri Lanka received Russian crude in May on a ship chartered by Coral Energy and has since bought more from the merchant.
“Indian refiners are willing to take the risk of dealing with these new, little-known traders because the exemption should be too good to pass up,” said Vandana Hari, founder of Vanda Insights. “We know that Indian refiners want Russian cargo on a delivery basis. So as long as new traders are meeting that need, it works,” she said.
According to officials, the new crop of traders recently was offering supplies of Russian Ural crude at a discount of about $8 a barrel. He said that they are also increasing the staff. Wellbred’s employees include former individuals from large companies such as Glencore plc and the Gunvor Group.
According to officials, some merchants are offering payment options in alternative currencies such as the UAE dirham. Separately, India’s central bank has announced plans to settle international trade in the local currency.
According to analytics firm Kepler, as the turnaround is underway, Indian Oil, the country’s largest processor, is importing Russian oil at a record-breaking pace and is outpacing its private peers. Inflows have averaged 450,000 barrels per day in July, Kepler data show – up 44% from the previous month – while India’s total purchases of Russian barrels rose 3% to nearly 1 million barrels.
India’s traditionally more agile private oil processors, such as Reliance Industries Ltd and Rosneft-backed Naira Energy Ltd, doubled down on purchases from smaller firms even before the world’s biggest oil traders took over Russian crude exports in May.
Rising supplies of Russian crude coming into India helped increase the share of oil from that country and neighbouring states to 18.8% in the April-to-June quarter, up from 3.4% in the previous 12 months, according to government information.