by Jorge Vilches for the Saker Blog
The title is correct, no mistakes. And, of course, there will be “no fuels for Europe” none at all… but only if you care to believe the EU leadership when insisting that by December 2022 no seaborne Russian crude oil will evermore be imported. Thusly — if that were the case as the EU approved policy requires — then of course true enough there would certainly be ´no fuels for Europe´ because the EU will necessarily fail in its nonsensical attempt to import and duly process any significant amount of 100% Europe-viable non-Russian oil to substitute for a most successful and traditional Urals blend per the Russian oil ban by December 2022. The same would apply for all the distillates thereof (diesel, petrol, kerosene, aviation fuels, etc.) per an equivalent Russian petroleum products ban by February 2023.
But if, on the contrary, you and I don´t believe for a minute such EU committed nonsense that in 6 short months… or 6 years… Europe will succeed in any meaningful application of its Russian sanctions package No. 6, then consequently of course there will definitely be plenty of fuels available in Europe thanks to the illegal import of traditional Russian oil for a long time to come through third-party “triangulation” as detailed below. Clear enough? If not, it would not be due to this explanation herein but rather because of the forever circumvoluted EU logic always confusing absolutely everything even whether 2 + 2 really really equals 4 or rather “we shall see that later and vote on it…but not now”…
K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Stupid)
In other words, the EU insists that as of December 2022 — in six short months — per sanctions package No. 6 seaborne Russian oil would be successfully banned throughout Europe and substituted with European-viable non-Russian oil and distillates from elsewhere. This will be impossible for reasons already explained to death and in-depth in a half dozen previous articles referenced below. So Europe will not be able to successfully substitute Russian oil and will just keep on buying and paying for it but through EU-illegal “below the counter” deliveries disguised in many old & dirty ways by third parties well-known the world over and especially by Europeans. Such “triangulation” ends up being terribly expensive and risky for Europe, thus the real effective result of the EU´s sanction package No.6 is a complete miserable failure fully against European best interests which EU leaders are unable to think of or care about. Hereinafter I make my case for the corresponding complete effective title of this article as we´ll have ´no (European-viable non-Russian) fuels for Europe´ but instead will have “plenty of (EU-illegal) Russian fuels for Europe”.
It´s short & sweet. TINA. There Is No Alternative to Russian energy. Please do read Mike Shedlock´s article this week
The Wall Street Journal reports that fuel shortage has shut down European factories with more coming soon. So whatever the EU does now or may do in the future – still up for grabs, nothing cast in concrete yet — the end-game cannot possibly include any significant EU substitution of Russian oil or nat-gas for that matter. Simply put, even if the EU were able to (very poorly) substitute a small portion of Russian seaborne oil (5 % ?) while exporting less Russia would still collect even higher revenue than today. This most valid and already proven consequence defeats the very purpose of the EU´s sanction package No.6. The reason is that by withdrawing any amount of Russian oil from today´s ultra-tight world markets, the price immediately increases proportionally or even beyond due to very sensitive price expectations derived from the smaller number of remaining willing and able vendors which might not even fully satisfy such newly created world oil market deficit. Thus the supply side of the world´s oil price equation rapidly deteriorates to the point of not being sustainable for more than a few days. While crude oil has many petrochemical applications, fuels are mostly destined to transport and heating, something that Europeans will soon have far less of.
the EU plan (not)
What is at stake is terrible, and no room for misunderstandings here, so let´s get this straight from the get-go: the EU´s “non-plan” to ban Russia´s crude oil and refined products thereof is as improvised as it sounds. For example, this “non-plan” does not include a single word about how the EU will effectively replace the abundant processed and finished oil products and distillates also currently imported from Russia. Would it be from Über-European productivity to be obtained from EU refineries after full modification for processing non-Russian oils? Or maybe through massive additional imports from yet unknown non-Russian sources? If a high school teenager were to submit this EU ´plan´ for teacher´s approval, at least in my 1960s it would have been immediately rejected, I kid you not. Been there, done that, got the T-shirt. Below please find the main points of this EU nonsense about which we only get piecemeal excerpts.
- until December 2022 Russia would continue exporting normally to Europe as it always has, meaning that for many months Russia would still happily cash-in copious amounts of euros per EU oil-sales revenue most probably with yet higher oil prices induced on the market by this very precise EU “plan” (not) described herein. This includes post-Covid and peak summer tourist consumption of diesel, petrol/gasoline, and aviation fuel.
- until December 2022 the EU would (supposedly) have enough time…only 6 months…to find and pre-select vendors, call for and much later study bids & lab tests, certify, negotiate, award and enter into 30 to 50-year contracts which better be fully complied with by yet unknown brand new international crude oil vendors (who are they, why not known yet ?) necessarily duly compatible with existing refineries and processing plants and other European requirements while simultaneously and successfully reaching legal agreement amongst 27 very diverse and conflicting EU stakeholders regarding design, tender, evaluation and award of contracts and oversight of the building, re-tooling, upgrade, testing, permitting and commissioning of a most important percentage of key European chemical industries and fuel trade businesses to be briefly described later herein and about which nothing has yet been said. This alone would take many years to approve and execute, yet EU politicians just smile solemnly and stare at MSM cameras same as a cat would after gulping down a canary. Matching the Russian Urals oil grade is theoretically “possible” by blending oils from different sources if available in reliable and large enough quantities. BUT achieving the blend specifications and volumetric physical flow requirements to meet refinery required output vis-á-vis desired final product specs is very difficult
- by December 2022 and thereafter all procurement processes for new Europe-compatible non-Russian feedstock oils would be concluded and contracts in full effect with tankers all lined up with shipments ready and waiting to be unloaded. Exactly the same applies to the many modified port, docks, land structures, and systems – just think HR recruiting & training + IT requirements — with their new logistics packages (supposedly) in place and tested to adequately deliver to the corresponding refineries, processing plants, pipelines, storage facilities, etc. throughout Europe. Of course, all of this should sound to you either childish and/or mission impossible simply because it´s both. And, of course, with so many (hundreds) of widespread and disruptive unplanned overlapping projects throughout Europe necessarily both “schedule slippage” and “mission creep” will rear their ugly heads, okay?
Of course, other very pertinent and required modifications, revamping, retro-fitting, retooling, adaptation, tuning, and matching to the new feedstock oils also need to be finished by December 2022 at refineries, processing plants, and pipelines themselves to render the required production yields (quantities and qualities) of the refined and/or processed products. Simply a 6-month nightmare for which 6 years would not be long enough. This should include – although not limited to – all sorts of matters related to civil works, electromechanical contracts, retro-fitting of equipment, HR + IT, new processes with detailed engineering plans, specs & drawings, manufacturing of parts, shipping, installation, testing, commissioning and permitting. And every single European plant and piece of equipment modified at the very same time and with the very same deadline complying with EU environmental laws & regulations + European Green Deal + European Climate Law + legally binding 55% reduction net greenhouse gas emissions + ISO 9000 + ISO 14000 + other ISO norms heavily affecting urbanized and politicized areas and pristine environments with hills, valleys and ridges, forests, rivers, lakes, autochthonous birds, flora and fauna and wildlife at large with possible heavy rain and/or winds and/or snow depending on geographical area and season.
Seaborne crude oil delivery to the EU has many ports, and as important as some of them are (Rotterdam, Maasvalakte, Trieste, etc.) it´d actually be the closest ports to Russia that prove the EU dead wrong, namely Wilhelmshaven (Germany, North Sea) + Rostock (Germany, Baltic) + Gdansk (Poland, Baltic) and also Rosenets- Burgas (Bulgaria, Black Sea). Their modifications and readiness (or not) will actually be the key progress indicators if any. As explained in previous articles referenced below these ports need to perform un-replaceable functions without which right off the bat it´d be impossible for the many projects that depend upon them to get to first base. Furthermore, once their respective modifications are (supposedly) certified, the three of them need to coordinate their operation very smoothly like a perfect trio ensemble for Northern Europe to have chances of importing huge & continuous amounts of Europe-viable non-Russian crude oils. These three ports (Wilhelmshaven , Rostock, and Gdansk) are also what engineers call “single points of failure” which, in this case, is even worse as the three are located way upstream in the supply chain meaning that if any one of them does not perform as planned, farewell bye-bye adios sayonara to German and Polish fuel production and distribution. Such negative impact could also be expanded elsewhere in the event that Slovakia´s huge Slovnaft refinery – or Burgas the largest refinery in the Balkans plus many others — cannot overcome the terrible new problems that these EU policies with nonsensical Russian oil sanctions now mean very specifically for them by also not allowing any ´direct or indirect´ EU transfers or exports anywhere. The No.6 sanctions package will probably fail in and East of Germany. Furthermore, as Poles and Germans don´t always get along well, the Old Continent would not be as we know it with Germany, Poland, and possibly all of Eastern Europe short of or plain cut off from fuels, no? I can´t believe there are no sane knowledgeable Europeans able to stop this.
As a matter of fact, if that ever happened the EU as such would de facto cease to economically exist right there and then. Schedule compliance and meeting Critical Path key dates shall be unforgiving as European engineers surely must know, let´s hope. Even a partial failure would be unbelievably catastrophic by shutting down continuous year-round processes which cannot be re-started and would mean irreparable economic harm and possible human injuries.
- by December 2022 and thereabouts (supposedly) all around the European continent lots and lots of refineries, processing plants, facilities and premises of all sorts will all necessarily be either shut down with no production for weeks (!!!) thusly unimaginable chaos OR still producing normally while also attempting to incorporate new unvetted modifications, upgrades, and stuff to be commissioned. So it´d be like trying to change the oil of your car´s engine while cruising at 150 km/h speed on a German autobahn without ever stopping. Got it?
I wonder where the arch-famous EU labor unions and industry trade associations are hiding right now ? Have all of them been “captured” by the EU establishment same as MSM? Not a word from anyone as if all of the above (and more) were just business as usual so “what-you-worry-for ?” stuff. No Sir, quite the opposite.
- after December 2022 – and this is important – from one minute to the other ( how so, exactly ?? ) the EU would switch over and no longer import seaborne Russian oil suddenly replaced by (supposedly) 100% European-viable fully lab-tested non-Russian continuously abundant certified quality oils to be imported from still unknown far away vendors, not from neighboring Russia. It better be that way, or else Europe would be crashing a Boeing 737 Max in automatic pilot mode into the French Alps same as Germanwings Flight 9525.
- the sudden January 2023 switch-over mentioned above also assumes that every single modification required to accept such 100% European-viable non-Russian oils would have already been successfully made and certified, permitted, and commissioned in full compliance with EU policies and norms briefly described later herein, and with no negative impact or alteration of any significance in other ports, docks, handling & storage facilities, the environment at large, pipelines, heavy-duty and heavy-traffic roads yet to be built, public domains, logistics infrastructure, trucks, yards, refineries and processing plants, shipping facilities and premises, etc.
- as of January 2023, Russia would (supposedly) no longer export just about any of its oil per EU sanctions package No. 6 forbidding financing, insurance, and reinsurance of Russian oil in transit anywhere in the world.
- As of January 2023, Russia supposedly would not possibly retaliate in any way, shape, or form – as if forcefully isolated and tied down inside a high-security “vacuum jail” of sorts. Of course, Russia does not agree with the above and will surely act in self-defense, possibly with harsh retaliation measures fully unexpected by the Western world as described to death and in-depth in the articles referenced below. So EU politicians believe that the Russians are dumb enough to let them roll their ideas out nice and easy at their own pace and whenever they decide to act per their own special EU schedule, with no on-the-fly Russian reactions. No market dynamics involved either as Europe plays everybody else´s pieces too as grandpas would do with 3-year-old grandkids. Furthermore, there are key imports Russia could partially or totally embargo such as strategic value-chain upstream items with captive EU consumers cascading into multiple supply chain failures thru lack of nat-gas, rare earths, inert gases, potash, sulfur, uranium, palladium, vanadium, cobalt, coke, titanium, nickel, lithium, etc. Ref #5 https://www.rt.com/business/555065-russia-oil-ban-exemption-eu/
- as of January 2023, Russia would find itself basically deprived of its oil-exporting revenue worldwide no matter how high the oil price ends up being after shrinking the world market supply by some 15% of Russian oil now all “hijacked” within Russia´s borders and (supposedly) forcing to shut-in entire Russian oil fields thusly damaged beyond repair thereafter hindering any possible future Russian production of oil. (!!!) Amen.
The above points are of course per the theoretical EU ´non-plan´ that will never happen for reasons that should be obvious by now. What follows immediately below is what really will (approximately) happen and for which the EU leadership — under normal conditions at least – would have to pay an enormous political price for, such as collectively resigning to their positions or completely re-designing the EU-Russia relationship on the basis of the Minsk 2 Agreements it never followed and/or forced Ukraine to comply with despite the French & German leadership thereof.
Per The Guardian, “…Come October, it’s going to get horrific, truly horrific…a scale beyond what we can deal with”.
De-Russianizing Russian oil
“Triangulation” means Europe will necessarily keep importing high-quality Russian oil via third countries only at much higher prices. One way to cheat about it having Russian oil staying in some other country´s depot for a short while and thus being “nationalized” on such other country´s behalf and is no longer considered to be ´Russian´. Or, by preparing partial mixtures anywhere – even on high seas — of Russian oil 45% + 55% ´oil from somewhere else´ so as to make the Russian oil DNA untraceable but yet with the “correct” pre-agreed 55% blended in already, you follow? Such old, quick and dirty business is known as “triangulation” and may also involve STS or Ship To Ship high seas transfers. But through every (faked) transaction the price of such de-Russianized oil would increase thus reaching even a 50% surcharge over the original international price paid to Russian suppliers, even discounted. Rinse, repeat.
Accordingly, Made-In-Europe costs and cost of living inflation would rise enormously. Of course, the West would still import lots of badly-needed Russian oil – most especially the US – predominantly from India. In recent months there have been 180 (one hundred and eighty) ownership changes of Russian vessels to firms based mostly in Singapore, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, etc. Other ´deceptive´ shipping practices are increasing every day with yet more creative shenanigans.
For example, tankers would switch off their GPS equipment, known as ´going dark´, and carry out STS maneuvers by transporting labeled Russian oil a very short distance to a large vessel at sea and then transferring it yet again before final delivery, all the de-Russianizing done “on the move” even at night with no possible satellite or drone surveillance.
Another clear possibility is cheating and corruption all along the very lengthy Druzbha pipeline all the way from Russia into the heart of Europe feeding refineries such as Schwedt, Slovnaft, Burgas, Litvinov, Duna, Leuna, Plock + others
no news is bad news
Supposedly, per EU sanctions, by December 2022 Europe would not be importing any seaborne Russian oil. Supposedly, in 6-month’s time, the EU would be importing Europe-viable non-Russian oils to substitute for Russian oil.
But in order for the above to happen, lots of things should already be known, alive and kicking, “puffing smoke” so to say. And they are not while 800 million livelihoods plus many hundreds of billions of euros are at stake. Lots of stuff should have already taken place with great visibility and participation from stakeholders. We have none of that though.
8 broad areas 8
Everything that is explained herein below is an absolute requirement right now, not in 6-month’s time. The pre-selection of many dozens of bidders plus the corresponding issuance of bid documents, calls for tender, bid opening + evaluation & homologation + negotiation & contract award processes are still fully unknown. Also missing are plans, drawings, and specs, dates and schedules, possible joint-ventures & engineering firms involved, bid evaluation and bid award authorities, etc., etc. So all items mentioned below are either (a) an unexplainable secret or (b) do not exist.
- Feasibility studies: contract & execution + corresponding Reports
- Legal basis for Project Owner´s appointment & Regulator´s base-line Reports
- Financing plans with 50 years pay-back period long after fossil fuels are phased out of the EU.
- Crude oil data & specs, quality, quantities, guarantees, vendor qualifications, contract length, schedule, terms
- Shipping tanker contract terms, insurance, and reinsurance of vessels, cargos and ports, docks & facilities
- Bids for new infrastructure and modifications of existing infrastructure, civil works + electromechanical contract
- Bids for refinery and/or processing plant modifications and retro-fitting, detailed engineering plans, specs & drawings, manufacturing of parts, shipping, installation, testing, certification, commissioning, and permitting. Negotiation + contracts. All plants and equipment simultaneously modified and with the very same deadline.
- Projects oversight, progress and certification plus overall compliance re EU labor legislation, environmental laws & regulations + European Green Deal + European Climate Law + legally binding 55% reduction net greenhouse gas emissions+ ISO 9000 (manufacturing ) + ISO 14000 (environment) + other ISO & EU norms
- On what EU legal basis would a “Bid Authority” evaluate the quality and validity of the bids?
- Who and how would later negotiate the corresponding contracts?
- Would there also be a Panel of Consultants for oversight purposes?
Hundreds of projects need to be executed if all refineries, processing plants, ports, pipelines, logistics infrastructure, etc., etc. are taken into account. There are many vulnerable refineries now fed by the Russian Druzbha pipeline such as Slovnaft + Burgas + Litvinov + Duna + Leuna + Plock + others – that need to overcome the specific impact of these EU negative policies including export prohibition (!!) Just as an example, for processing and refining non-Russian crude oil the Schwedt refinery alone at the very least will require 11 major projects summarized as follows:
- Wilhelmshaven + Gdansk: dedicated storage + equipment for frequent inbound seaborne batch deliveries
- Wilhelmshaven + Gdansk: dedicated logistics for outbound deliveries to Rostock port storage terminals
- Rostock: berth revamping for larger seaborne inbound oil tankers from Wilhelmshaven, Gdansk or elsewhere
- Rostock: dedicated storage facilities + handling equipment for larger, more frequent seaborne batches
- Logistics for internal delivery via inland waterways + rail + road inbound to both W. + R. storage terminals
- Rostock port – Schwedt Refinery: pipeline upgrade & revamping + modifications to receive Rostock feed
- Schwedt Refinery: new oil feedstock definition, testing and vendor selection, approval, certification & contract.
- Schwedt Refinery: retrofit and revamping modifications per Option (3) described herein later.
- Schwedt Refinery: enhanced storage facilities + handling equipment for large deliveries from wherever
So even assuming that eleven simultaneous Schwedt projects may possibly produce partial although much lower rate substitutes, it´d always be at a MUCH higher price plus the enormous cost of paying back these unnecessary projects which will require lots of negotiation, coordination, funding, expertise, risky modifications, new fixed and variable costs and surprises from yet unknown trade and business partners, new procedures, brokers, insurance companies, etc., etc.
And remember, no (or less) Schwedt means no (or less) Berlin, same as Brandenburg state and all of Western Poland
Schwedt needs fine-tuning revamping of everything related to new feedstock lines and infrastructure, an atmospheric distillation facility, a vacuum distillation system, a cat-crack unit, a visbreaking facility, an alkylation unit, a catalytic reformer, an isomerization unit, and an ethyl tertiary butyl ether (ETBE) facility. Plus brand new storage facilities + handling equipment for Rostock feed to substitute the Druzhba pipeline. Contractors and third parties working everywhere with all sorts of sensors, software & firmware modifications or possible purchases of new hard & software.
Other refineries will be actively competing with Schwedt, among other resources, for the required expertise and experienced, specialized hands-on labor and other specific tooling and equipment, specialized vendors, etc. etc.
“ Europe will spend a fortune it does not have while simultaneously risking project non-performance of the trouble full reconversion projects required ending up with many half-finished facilities that will not be anywhere ready on time, or ever. And as 95% compliance is not enough to produce a single drop of a processed product (diesel or whatever) this means that under current circumstances and 2022 established deadlines until Europe has 100% modified, re-tooled, and retrofitted facilities up and running you really have not achieved anything. Additionally, the human resources challenge related to all of the above is insurmountable and probably un-compliable.”
Politicians do not comprehend the language and requirements of engineering, physics, chemistry, logistics & geology.
And it´s still an unfathomable mystery how the EU will effectively replace the abundant processed and finished oil products and distillates also currently imported from Russia. Not a single official word has been uttered by the EU.