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Russian NWE Urals crude assessed $5.645/b lower at fresh record discount of Dated Brent minus $27.87/b

Highlights

Shell lifts Trafigura March 14-18 cargo at Dated Brent minus $28.50/b

Indian, China buyers likely to play a large role in Urals going forward

Saudi Aramco cuts April Med/NWE Arab Medium OSPs by $1.10/b

The public buyers strike appeared to end on March 4 after Shell shipping and trading company lifted Trafigura's Urals Baltic offer in the Platts Market on Close assessment process by S&P Global Commodity Insights at Dated Brent minus $28.50/b.

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As a result, NWE Urals was assessed a further $5.645/b lower on the day at a fresh record discount of $27.87/b to Dated Brent.

Before the Urals trade, traders had said the Russian grade's discounts were potentially limitless.

"Urals is bottomless," a Mediterranean trader said.

Traders were focused on the inability to purchase Urals cargoes due to financial sanctions imposed on Russian banks.

"Buyers aren't buying because they cannot settle payment with bank," a second trader said, adding Indian and Chinese buyers would play a large role in the future of the Russian Urals market.

"[Asian buyers] started looking at Urals as margin lucrative," the trader said.

Elsewhere, Russian oil supply to the global market could fall by 1 million-2 million b/d this month, according to analysis by S&P Global Commodity Insights, as a result of financial sanctions on Moscow and as traders and refiners voluntarily suspend purchases of Russia's oil.

"Iran-style secondary sanctions on 7 million b/d of Russian oil exports, 4.5 million b/d of which is crude, are unlikely in most scenarios, but market reluctance to buy Urals could admittedly persist for longer than we assume," S&P Global said.

Of interest to the Urals traders was the release of April Saudi Aramco OSPs March 4. Aramco cut April OSPs for Arab Medium -- a rival to Urals -- for Mediterranean and NWE buyers by $1.10/b. However, the drop may not be enough to tempt local buyers reliant on Urals, considering the grade has fallen by over $15/b over the past month.

In refinery news, Russia's refineries have started feeling the effect of a sharp fall in export sales of oil products in the wake of the country's invasion of Ukraine.

Traders are awaiting the release of the first five days of the Russian Urals program next week to see the impact of the seaborne export program after Russia's invasion of Ukraine.