If the EU is to reduce its dependence on Russian hydrocarbons or ban them altogether, even by 2027, it will need to secure alternative sources of crude oil supply.
Despite the multiple excellent and well-funded initiatives toward energy transition, these will not be in place within this brief time horizon. (Source: IEA) The most immediate source of the required replacement crude oil supply rests in the Middle East with OPEC members such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates. Diplomatic efforts are in process on this front. (Source: BBC) If some rapprochement is reached with Iran, then they could also join this group.
If replacement capacity comes via this route, we will see additional tonnage transiting the Suez Canal and the SUMED pipeline. A 3mb/d gap in supply will take some 3,000 SuezMax tankers per annum to fill, without taking account of any return transits. Current transits through the Suez of all vessel types stand at just under 20,000 vessels of all types per annum. (Source: Suez Canal Authority)
Although such extra fleet capacity may not be immediately available, this would represent a significant increase in traffic. It may also open the potential for sub-standard vessels and crews to enter the market due to the demand for non-Russian oil. Tankers may then transit the Mediterranean, the Bay of Biscay, and the English Channel to reach ports such as Rotterdam or could be routed via the Adriatic Sea to Triste to feed the Transalpine pipeline supplying German, Austrian and Czech refineries. The Transalpine network transported some 750kb/d of Crude in 2021 (source: Transalpine Pipeline)so replacing the current Druzbha pipeline capacity If the EU is to reduce its dependence on Russian hydrocarbons or ban them altogether, even by 2027, it will need to secure alternative sources of crude oil supply.
Whilst refineries across Europe seek to replace Russian imports, Russian Exploration & Production companies will be looking for new export routes for their oil to locations that have not placed them under an embargo. Existing Russian crude export routes from Primorsk via the Baltic will become longer, passing through the English Channel and then onwards to a sanctions-free recipient. Similarly, Russian exports from Novorossiysk via the Black Sea will now have to continue through the Mediterranean either through the Suez or Straits of Gibraltar to their new destinations.
As an aside, we may speculate whether these vessels are likely to be inclined to meet the emissions limits set across various Emission Control Areas in the EU and elsewhere. The impact on SOx, NOx and particulate (PM10) emissions may be significant.