What does the Suez Canal blockage mean for oil shipments?

Crude oil and refined fuels flow in both directions through the 193 km long Suez Canal
Last Updated 25 March 2021, 16:08 IST

A giant container ship blocking Egypt's Suez Canal might be stuck for weeks, the salvage company said, throttling oil and fuel shipments connecting Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

How much oil goes through the canal?

Of the 39.2 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil imported by seaborne methods in 2020, 1.74 million bpd went through the Suez Canal, according to tanker tracking firm Kpler.

Which direction do crude oil barrels flow?

Crude oil and refined fuels flow in both directions through the 193 km (120 mile) long Suez Canal. In 2020 Europe imported 550,000 bpd of crude from sources located east of Suez of which the vast majority went through the canal, according to Kpler.

Imports into South and East Asia via the Suez Canal hit a high of 1.27 million bpd in June 2020, although arrivals later bottomed out at just 310,000 bpd in November.

What about refined products?

Just under 9% or 1.54 million bpd of global refined product imports flowed through the Suez Canal last year, according to Kpler. Plastics feedstock naphtha makes up a large portion of refined product flows in the canal.

As of Thursday, two middle distillate cargoes carrying diesel and jet fuel were waiting to travel into the Mediterranean, while two vessels carrying naphtha were waiting to start their journey east, Kpler said.

Are there pipelines parallel to the canal?

The 320 km (200 mile) Sumed pipeline connecting the Gulf of Suez with the Mediterranean transports 80% of the oil shipped from the Middle East Gulf to Europe, according to the Sumed website.

The pipeline has a capacity of about 2.8 million bpd but utilisation is often well below capacity. About 1.3 million bpd flowed through the system in 2018, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

(Published 25 March 2021, 16:08 IST)

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