(CNN Spanish) — Trade relations between the countries of the European Union (EU) and Russia, especially with regard to the purchase of Russian gas and oil, have been in the eyes of the whole world since the beginning of the invasion of Ukraine at the end of February .
The EU is one of the main buyers of fuel from Russia, on which it is highly dependent. For this reason, and unlike the United States, it did not stop buying it despite condemning the invasion, implementing harsh sanctions against Moscow and providing determined military support to Ukraine.
But now that the EU has finally announced that it will stop buying oil from Russia within six to eight months, a move that will hit the Russian economy hard – Europe will, however, continue to buy gas – the question is how the bloc countries replace that supply so as not to suffer the consequences themselves.
Russian oil purchases from Europe
According to 2020 data from the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), Russia exported 48% of its total oil production to European countries, particularly Germany (11%), Netherlands (11%) and Poland (7%). Other important buyers of Russian oil in the region are Finland (4%), Slovakia (2%), Italy (2%), Lithuania (2%) and Hungary (2%).
How much fuel does the European Union import from Russia?
This constitutes, in turn, 27% of total oil imports from the countries of the European Union, a significant percentage that will have to be replaced with other producers.
Russia is the second largest oil producer in the world, surpassed only by the United States and ranking just above Saudi Arabia: it produces about 9.7 million barrels a day, of which it exports about 5 million, according to the EIA.
Possible replacements to supply from Russia
By comparison, the United States produces about 10.2 million barrels a day, Saudi Arabia about 9.3 million, Canada about 4.3 million and Iraq 4.2 million, to talk about the top five producers.
In the case of Saudi Arabia, the country also has the second largest oil reserves –after Venezuela– among the countries of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), which account for almost 80% of the world total.
The measure announced by the European Union will force changes in the international oil market: not only Europeans will have to look for new suppliers, Russia will also have to find new buyers.
But few producers have been willing or able to increase output to account for global cuts in Russian oil purchases, although the United Arab Emirates recently suggested it might try.
In addition, both OPEC and Russia had been putting brakes on production since before the war in order to keep prices high in a pressured market.
Meanwhile, the price of a barrel of oil remains high at US$106 for a WTI barrel (US standard) and US$109 for Brent (European standard). In December 2021, when the escalation of tensions between Russia and Ukraine that would culminate in the invasion began, WTI was at $67 and then began to rise rapidly.