India bought a record amount of Russian oil last month, with the country importing a whopping 33 times more than a year earlier.
The world's third-biggest crude importer purchased an average of 1.2 million barrels a day from Russia in December, according to data from Vortexa Ltd. That's 29% more than in November.
The country is now easily India's biggest source of oil after overtaking Iraq and Saudi Arabia several months ago.
Indian refiners have been lapping up cheap Russian crude since the invasion of Ukraine caused many buyers to shun the shipments. The sharp increase in December is possibly the result of deepening discounts due to additional sanctions from the G-7 and European Union including a $60-a-barrel price cap.
"Russia has likely offered its crude at an attractive discount to Indian refiners, which have surpassed China as the largest importer of Russian crude," said Serena Huang, lead Asia analyst at Vortexa. Besides Urals, India has stepped up imports of other Russian grades like Arco, Sakhalin and Varandey in recent months, she said.
India meets more than 85% of its oil demand via imports, which makes it highly vulnerable to price volatility. The state-owned refiners, who have been prevented by the government from raising pump prices of diesel and gasoline since May, have increasingly favored cheaper Russian imports.
Imports from India's two other main suppliers also increased last month. Purchases from Iraq climbed 7% to around 886,000 barrels a day, while those from Saudi Arabia increased 12% to about 748,000 barrels a day, according to Vortexa.
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