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EU agrees latest package of sanctions against Russia including chemical export, import bans

  • Author
  • Ian Young from Chemical Week
  • Editor
  • Daniel Lalor
  • Commodity
  • Energy Transition Natural Gas Oil Petrochemicals
  • Tags
  • Butadiene
  • Topic
  • War in Ukraine

The European Council has adopted the EU's eighth package of sanctions against Russia announced by the European Commission late September.

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The measures, effective immediately, include bans on the import and export of many chemical products featuring a large number of basic petrochemicals and inorganic chemicals, intermediates, plastics, fertilizers, and specialties.

The additional import bans included in the package cover trade worth almost Eur7 billion ($6.8 billion) annually and were designed to "curb Russia's revenues", the EC said.

Methanol is the main petrochemical added to the list of products that can no longer be imported by EU member states from Russia. The list also now includes commodity plastics polyethylene, polystyrene, and polyvinyl chloride. Imports of polypropylene from Russia had already been banned by the EU.

Meanwhile, the EU can no longer import engineering plastics such as nylon and polyacetal from Russia. Fertilizer imports included in the new package include phosphates, potash, and NPK fertilizers, as well as nitrates. Hydrochloric acid, nitric acid, phosphoric acid, and sulfuric acid are also on the list, as are specialties such as certain plasticizers, polymer stabilizers, and rubber-processing chemicals.

Russia is a major producer and exporter of methanol. It has 12 production units in total, including some medium-to-large scale plants with combined capacity for more than 5 million mt /year, according to S&P Global Commodity Insights.

Russia has exported 120,000-130,000 mt/month of methanol this year, "significantly lower than in 2019, but a modest decline from 2021," according to Olivier Maronneaud, global head of methanol research at S&P Global.

Sibur is Russia's biggest producer of PE and PP. The company told CW earlier this year it exported 1 million mt of polyolefins in 2021.

Russian companies are among the world's biggest producers of fertilizers. PhosAgro, one of the biggest producers of phosphates and NPK, made 10.3 million mt of fertilizers in 2021. Uralkali is one of the biggest producers and exporters of potash. Before the war in Ukraine, Russia accounted for 16% of worldwide fertilizer trade, according to S&P Global.

The new export restrictions, meanwhile, "will further deprive the Kremlin's military and industrial complex of key components and technologies," the Commission says.

The list of products that cannot be exported by the EU to Russia is huge and includes basic petrochemicals such as styrene, toluene, xylenes, and cyclohexane, as well as phenol, acetone, and phenolic resins.

It also includes caustic soda and chlorine derivatives vinyl chloride monomer (VCM), sodium chlorate, methylene chloride, and perchloroethylene. Engineering plastics such as polycarbonate and polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) are included, as are melamine and polyvinyl acetate.

A range of butadiene-based rubbers are on the list, as are industrial gases oxygen, hydrogen, and nitrogen. Other major products banned for export from the EU to Russia include hydrogen peroxide, methionine, calcium carbonate, and a range of paints, pigments, and printing inks, as well as finishing agents for dyestuffs.

The package also lays the basis for the required legal framework for the EU to implement an oil price cap envisaged by the G7 nations.

The EU's ban on importing Russian seaborne crude oil remains in place, but the price cap, once implemented, would allow European operators to carry out and support the transport of Russian oil to third countries, provided its price remains under a pre-set "cap," according to the Commission. "This will help to further reduce Russia's revenues, while keeping global energy markets stable through continued supplies," it said.

The oil price cap would take effect after Dec. 5 for crude and Feb. 5 for refined oil products, after a further decision by the European Council.

This story was first published by S&P Global Commodity Insights Chemical Week.