Russia Restarts Bulk Bitumen Exports after Several Years

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The first bulk cargo of bitumen from Russia in years has been exported by Trading house Trafigura.

The deal that it says can help the country improve the quality of its refined products ahead of new, global regulations on marine fuel, Reuters reports.

The head of Trafigura Eurasia, Jonathan Kollek, told the news agency the first shipment of bitumen, used to make road paving and in roofing, went from the port of St Petersburg to Europe in a 5,000-tonne tanker this month.

The company expects to ship at least 35,000 tons of bitumen from a Russian refinery between October and March, with the logistics in Russia being arranged by Fuel Technologies Co in St. Petersburg and outside Russia by Trafigura’s industrial investment, Puma Energy, a significant global bitumen player.

“Russia normally produces a lot of bitumen only when there is seasonal domestic demand in April-September. When refineries cut bitumen production in October-March, they end up having much thicker fuel oil and have to dilute it with gasoil. That is obviously a value loss,” Kollek said.

Russia exports some bitumen by rail but the problem for larger shipments by tanker is that the country charges a relatively high export duty, similar to fuel oil, on the generally cheaper product, said the head of Trafigura’s Russian trading, Alexei Golubev. That often makes operations uneconomic, he said.