An oil rig in Brazil, in a file image. Pilar Olivares (Reuters)
Spain already has a new reference supplier of crude oil: America and, more specifically, Latin America. In the first four months of the year, oil imports from the west shore of the Atlantic covered almost half of national needs. The rise is especially strong in the case of Central and South American countries, from where imports grow by 115% in the first four months of the year, according to data published Monday by the Corporation of Strategic Reserves of Petroleum Products (Cores).
In just one year, Russian invasion of Ukraine through, Spain has gone from buying 700,000 tons of Russian crude to not buying a single one. On the opposite side, oil from Venezuela, Ecuador and Trinidad and Tobago has gone from zero to 258,000, 148,000 and 101,000 tons, respectively. Colombia, on the other hand, has 586,000 tons sold to Spanish importers between January and April, four times more than in the same period of the previous year. And Brazil has seen shipments grow to just over two million tons, up from 1.5 million in the first quarter of 2022.
Mexico, main origin
In a somewhat more northern latitude, already in North America, Mexico sold just over 2.7 million tons until April, almost 46% more. This rise makes it the first Spanish supplier of crude oil, ahead of two giants: the United States (2.2 million tons) and Brazil (2 million).
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It is not surprising that Russian and Latin American oil are communicating vessels. Both are, roughly, of the same type: heavy, ideal for the production of so-called middle distillates, such as diesel or aviation kerosene, the segment in which the ban on Russian oil derivatives has most impacted. Only some Central Asian countries — such as Azerbaijan — can compete in this segment; The rest of the world puts on the market a lighter crude, fundamental in the mix but not interchangeable. The versatility of the eight Spanish refineries, capable of processing all kinds of crude oil – with more or less sulfur, for example – is essential to enable this shift in the import matrix.
Imports from Africa, the Middle East and the rest of Europe fall
Purchases from Africa, on the other hand, fell by 26%, with sharp declines in all countries except Angola, from where – attention – they increased sevenfold. And those from both the Middle East and the rest of Europe and Eurasia contracted by 14%, with the only exceptions of Norway, Kazakhstan and the aforementioned Azerbaijan.
Between January and March 2023, Spanish crude oil imports grew a meager 0.3% from all origins. In the last 12 months, however, they are up just over 7%. An increase that is explained both by the greater domestic demand for gasoline and kerosene, and by the greater Spanish exports of fuels – especially diesel – to the rest of Europe after the definitive closure to Russia.
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