Why the EU may find it tough to squeeze out Russian oil

(EurActiv, 5 May 2022) The European Union has proposed a phased embargo of Russian oil but may find it tricky to implement, given Europe’s complex distribution network and challenges in tracking crude once it is blended or refined.

The plan, if agreed by member states, would take effect in six months for crude, and in eight months for diesel and other oil products.

How watertight will any EU sanctions be?

Under the proposal, Hungary and Slovakia would be granted a longer period – until the end of 2023 – to adapt to the embargo. This means that countries in the EU would still be able to purchase Russian oil via Hungary and Slovakia, unless the plan is ratified to prevent both countries from buying more oil than they need.

Can Russian oil still end up in Europe after a ban?

European countries might still continue buying Russian cargoes from other third countries without being aware of its origin.

Oil can usually be traced to its origin based on its chemical make up, such as sulphur content and density. However, some buyers have been deceived in the past by forged documents, hiding the origin of cargoes from countries under sanctions, including Iran and Venezuela, according to industry sources.

That becomes more difficult if the crude is blended with other crudes for refiners, and almost impossible after it is processed into standard products, such as gasoline, diesel or jet fuel.

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EurActiv, 5 May 2022: Why the EU may find it tough to squeeze out Russian oil