• A 2-million-barrel supertanker delivered US crude oil to Spain for the first time since 2015, Bloomberg reported.
  • Supply disruption from the Russia-Ukraine war has led Russian-oil dependent Europe to seek alternatives.
  • More oil supertankers from the US have been sent to Europe so far this year than the same period last year. 

The US has delivered crude oil to Europe in tankers double the normal size, to help ease any gaps as the EU tries to cut its dependency on Russian oil while it assesses a potential ban.

In mid-April, a 2-million barrel supertanker delivered oil from the US to Spain for the first time since 2015, Bloomberg reported Tuesday. After its delivery in Bilbao, the Solana then unloaded oil in Germany and the Netherlands.

The EU, which gets one-quarter of its oil from Russia, is trying to wean itself off dependency on the imports as it considers placing a ban on them. Buyers in Europe are "self-sanctioning" and avoiding Russian sources.

The bloc gets about 3.5 million barrels of crude oil a day from Russia, and it needs to find 2 million barrels daily if it cuts out those imports, according to strategists' estimates.

While US crude exports to Europe were already growing steadily before the Ukraine war, they hit a record moving-average high of 1.4 million barrels a day from February to April, Vortexa data shows.

Supertankers will likely play an increasingly larger part in moving that crude from the US to Europe, according to Vortexa chief economist David Wech.

In the past, smaller Aframax tankers carrying between 600,000-800,000 barrels were used for the vast majority — 86% — of shipments of US crude to Europe. Now the bigger 2 million-barrel supertankers normally reserved for deliveries to Asia have come into play.

Four supertankers have made the trip to Europe so far this year, compared with just one in the same period in 2021, according to Bloomberg. In April and early May, there are four expected to arrive on the continent, Vortex said.

"As most European buyers are phasing down Russian crude imports, more replacement barrels are set to come from the US going forward, likely underpinning the trend to bigger vessels," Vortex said.

The EU can rely on the US for its energy needs if it cuts out Russian oil, according to energy expert Dan Yergin of S&P Global. 

"The one place you have growth is in the United States, which will see substantial growth in its oil, but not overnight," he said. "It's doable, but it takes a lot of coordination to make it happen."

Some member states have urged the EU to end oil purchases from Russia, because the payments are seen as helping fund its invasion of Ukraine. Germany's purchases of Russian energy products are estimated to add about $220 million to the Kremlin's balance sheet per day. The US and the UK have already banned Russian oil.

Brent crude oil gained 1.35% to $103.59 a barrel, with WTI crude oil rising 1.31% to $99.83 per barrel on Tuesday.

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