• Major traders have shunned Russian crude, and smaller firms like Bellatrix are taking over from them, Bloomberg reported.
  • Bellatrix has transported almost 3 million barrels of Russian Urals crude oil in May, but there is little public information on it.
  • Asian companies and others have also stepped in, with Geneva-based Litasco carrying the most Russian Urals.

Major oil traders have shunned Russian supplies following the country's invasion of Ukraine, paving the way for smaller, under-the-radar companies to transport Russian crude oil, Bloomberg reported.

Among these is a little-known company called Bellatrix, whose ships have carried almost 3 million barrels of Russia's flagship Urals-grade crude in May alone, per the report. That volume is one-quarter of all Urals from Primorsk, the Russian seaport on the Baltic where the company is listed.

But there is little public information available on Bellatrix, and people in the oil transportation industry told Bloomberg they had never heard of the firm, which is not listed in previous port-agent data.

International trading houses such as Vitol, Trafigura and Glencore have been winding down purchases of Russian oil. The pullback came after the European Union gave them a deadline of May 15 to stop buying the country's crude and as the bloc edges closes in on a phased-in embargo on imports.

That has opened the door to smaller oil-trading companies like Bellatrix to step in, as more buyers for Russian supplies emerge in Asia. Price-sensitive buyers in China and India are snapping up Russian oil, which is selling cheaply as sanctions dent demand for the products.

Asia is a key market for Russia's energy, with the country exporting more than 350 million barrels of oil to Asian buyers — almost 25% of total Russian crude oil exports. Russia is the world's third-biggest oil producer, after the US and Saudi Arabia.

Asian firms have also become involved in shipping Russian oil. Chinese company Shandong Port group has transported crude from Russia to China, Reuters reported, describing it as the first time a Chinese firm other than Beijing's oil giants has directly bought from a Russian supplier.

Hong Kong-registered company Livna Shipping has shipped Russian supplies, as has a Dubai-listed company called Coral Energy, according to Bloomberg.

Geneva-based Litasco, a unit of Russian producer Lukoil, handles the largest share of Russian Urals. It transported at least 14 million barrels of oil in April, and 8.6 million barrels in May so far.

Litasco and Shandong did not immediately reply to Insider's request for comment. Bellatrix and Livna could not be reached for comment.

The IEA warned last week that Russia's oil output will keep falling in the months and years to come, because it won't be able to redirect the volumes it is losing in Europe. Moscow itself has said its production could decline by 17% in 2022.

Russia will likely be shut out permanently from global energy markets once Europe can operate without the country's oil and gas, top energy executives said at a Brisbane conference Tuesday.

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