MOSCOW (Reuters) – Bulgaria, the only EU country allowed to continue seaborne imports of Russian oil after December’s EU embargo, ramped up imports from elsewhere in October as it strives to cut Russian purchases, according to LSEG data and Reuters calculations.
Bulgaria said last month it was getting ready to fully ditch Russian oil by October 2024 and planned to reduce Moscow’s share of imports to 80% by the end of this year.
In October Bulgaria will import almost 200,000 tonnes of non-Russian oil, including Norway’s Johan Sverdrup and Egypt’s Western Desert grades, according to LSEG data. It is the largest volume of non-Russian oil imported per month so far this year.
In 2023 Bulgaria relied almost solely on oil supplied by Moscow. Russian crude accounted for 92% of the country’s imports in January-September – the biggest share of its total oil imports in recent years. In 2021 Russian oil imports accounted for less then 70%.
Alternative oil grades including Sverdrup, Western Desert, Kurdistan’s Kirkuk and Azerbaijan’s Azeri BTC have been supplied in small portions, accounting for just 8% of supply in January-September, according to LSEG data and Reuters calculations.
Bulgaria has only one operating refinery – the 196,000 barrel-per-day Burgas Neftohim controlled by Russia’s Lukoil, which also supplies oil to the plant.
High Russian oil imports to Bulgaria are due to Lukoil’s need to find a home for its embargoed oil, traders said.
A tight market for sour oil in Europe has made it difficult for the Burgas refinery to find alternative supplies, while demand for sour oil has been stoked by a ban on Kurdish oil exports, they added.
Bulgaria’s economy ministry and Lukoil did not respond to requests for comment.
(Reporting by Reuters; Editing by Mark Potter)