The oil refinery of Neste in Porvoo, Southern Finland, in August 2017. (Mikko Stig – Lehtikuva)

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THE IMPORTS of Russian crude oil to Finland have plummeted during the course of this spring.

YLE on Saturday reported that no such decline has taken place in the imports of other oil products, with the imports of light heating oils in fact surging to an all-time high. Data from Finnish Customs reveals that the volume of light-oil imports was three times as high in March 2022 than in March 2021.

Finnish Customs does not provide further details of the imports, such as the name and share of individual importers or the reason for imports.

Olli-Pekka Penttilä, the director of statistics at Finnish Customs, told the public broadcasting company that light oils are used primarily in heat production in sectors such as agriculture and industry. They are not, though, refined into raw material for plastics in Finland.

Finnish imports of crude oil more than halved in a matter of one month, according to Finnish Customs.

Neste, the Finnish majority state-owned oil refining and marketing company, has announced its decision to stop buying Russian crude oil from the spot market. Russian oil, however, will continue to be delivered to its refinery under earlier agreements until July.

“In addition to crude oil, Neste has a couple of purchase agreements for fossil fuel in Russia, including for vacuum-distilled diesel oil. These contracts were signed before the war in Ukraine. They will expire during the course of this year,” a spokesperson at the company wrote in an e-mail to YLE. “We don’t comment publicly on our purchases, but we’re not signing any new purchase agreements for fossil feedstocks or other oil products from Russia.”

Kari-Pekka Manni, the CEO of Teboil, admitted that the importer and distributor of oil products is responsible for some of the spike in light-oil imports due to its imports of bunker fuel. Teboil, he stressed, has not increased, at least significantly, the imports of light or other oil qualities from Russia.

“Russia’s significance is basically non-existent to us. We aren’t dependent on Russia,” he messaged to YLE.

Teboil is owned by Russia's Lukoil.

The European Union on Friday adopted its sixth package of sanctions against Russia. The package prohibits the import of all non-pipeline crude oil after a six-month transition period and that of refined petroleum products after an eight-month transition period. Sami Rakshit, the director of enforcement at Finnish Customs, estimated that the sanctions are hardly insignificant for imports.

“We are talking about sanctions with significant import value, with a combined value of almost 1.2 billion euros in the first quarter of the year,” he said in a news release.

All Finnish imports of Russian oil have been transported by sea or rail.

The latest sanctions also prohibit the export of products that could be used to develop war technology or military capabilities in Russia, including chemicals industry raw materials that can be used to produce explosives, pesticides and plastics.

Finnish Customs estimated that the ban on certain chemical industry exports will affect the operations of approximately 70 companies in Finland. Finnish companies, it said, exported more than 18 million euros worth of such products and materials to Russia in 2021. The value of the exports stood at about five million euros in the first quarter of 2022.

“At the annual level, we are talking about exports valued at about 20 million euros, but possibly even more because the intended purpose of some products will determine whether they fall within the scope of the sanctions,” said Rakshit.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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