China facing stiff competition for its favourite Russian oil from India

has ramped up purchases of crude from Russia’s far east, a grade that’s typically favored by Chinese oil refiners.

Four vessels hauling Russian ESPO oil are making their way to India, with two tankers heading for Paradip port on the east coast, where a refinery operated by . is located, according to shipbrokers and data compiled by Bloomberg.

That compares with three vessels in June and one in April, said Emma Li, an analyst at Vortexa in Singapore.

State-owned Indian Oil didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The trade is typically not attractive to Indian buyers due to the long distance from the Russian loading port of Kozmino and because ESPO crude cargoes are usually transported in aframax vessels, which carry smaller volumes. However, the cheaper price compared with other grades from the Persian Gulf and West Africa are likely to have prompted the buying, according to traders.

Cargoes of ESPO can be shipped to in around five days, and the nation’s refiners have been eagerly snapping up the cheap Russian barrels, which have displaced flows from other suppliers such as West Africa and Brazil.

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