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In France, the embargo on Russian diesel maintains pressure on prices at the pump


Will France still manage to supply itself with the height of its diesel needs in the months to come? And, above all, at what price? The concern is significant for motorists in the country, where the diesel engine (about 55% of the fleet in circulation) still dominates gasoline. And the concern will grow, Sunday February 5, date of the beginning of the embargo of the European Union (EU) on refined petroleum products from Russia, two months after the entry into force of that on crude oil .

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While the government has replaced, since January, a systematic fuel discount for all by an allowance of 100 euros a year for the most modest, prices at the pump have already regained considerable heights: 1.94 euros per liter of diesel on average the week of January 27. The peak in this area remains that of March 2022 (2.14 euros per litre); the month of June would certainly have exceeded it without the government rebate of 18 centimes per litre.

The most notable shock would thus have already occurred, affirm the employers’ organizations of the oil industry. Because the war in Ukraine made uncertain, from its outbreak, in February 2022, the routing of Russian deliveries. That is, in 2021, approximately 9% of crude oil imports into France, and 30% of those of diesel. “The embargo on Russian diesel has more impact in France than that on crude oil, but this impact has already been anticipated in diesel prices for several months”declares Jean-Nicolas Fiatte, Director General of the Professional Petroleum Committee.

Distant Contracts

On a European scale, “As of March 2022, diesel prices in Rotterdam [aux Pays-Bas, l’indice de référence] increased more than those of crude [le cours du Brent de mer du Nord] », observes Olivier Gantois, president of the French Union of Petroleum Industries (UFIP). So much so that the gross refining margin – the difference between the value of the refined product compared to the initial value of the crude – has gone from simple… to more than sevenfold: 101 euros per ton in 2022, against 14 euros in 2021, according to figures compiled by UFIP.

But prices could still rise, according to Andrew Wilson, head of analysis for French shipping broker BRS. A question of logistics flows. “Europe will have to look further afield for fuel, which means paying higher shipping costs, and a lot will depend on the cost of replacement barrels”, explains the analyst. Instead of Russian ships crossing the Baltic, vessels of greater tonnage could come from North America, the Middle East, India, or even China.

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