If Grangemouth Plans Proceed, Banned Russian Oil Could Potentially Enter Scotland

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Russian oil could flood into Scotland if the Grangemouth refinery closes, critics claim.

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A loophole in sanctions against Russia means that diesel and jet fuel originating from Russian crude oil could enter the UK legally if refined in a third country.

Reports suggest that PetroChina—the Chinese government-owned company that co-owns the Grangemouth refinery with billionaire Jim Ratcliffe’s Ineos—began trading in Russian crude oil last year. Campaigners are concerned that if Petroineos, the partnership behind Grangemouth, shuts down the refinery and transforms it into an import depot, it could pave the way for Russian oil to enter the UK.

Isaac Levi, of the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA), said: “Due to a gaping legal loophole in the sanctions, the UK is importing refined oil made from Russian crude in non-sanctioning countries. The UK’s purchases of this oil have sent over £140 million in tax revenues to the Kremlin, fueling Russia’s war efforts. This loophole raises questions about allowing Scotland’s only crude oil refinery to close.”

Petroineos bosses announced plans to shut down the refinery at Grangemouth with a loss of hundreds of jobs, converting the site into an import-only terminal. This move could open the door to importing oil refined in countries like China, where millions of pounds’ worth of oil products are already being imported through Grangemouth.

A Petroineos spokesperson responded, “We do not process Russian crude oil, nor do we trade in any Russian refined products. We are fully compliant with all relevant sanctions.” However, the company declined to clarify whether Russian crude refined in third countries had been imported in compliance with existing sanctions.

Forth Ports, which owns the Port of Grangemouth, added, “The Port of Grangemouth handles the import and export of millions of tonnes of cargo each year. It is the responsibility of the importer to ensure the provenance of goods meets all relevant regulations.”

CREA research has shown that millions of barrels of fuel made from Russian crude continue to be imported into the UK due to the “refining loophole,” undermining efforts to restrict Russia’s war funding. Russian crude, typically consumed in Europe, is now heading to India and China at lower prices following an EU ban, and these refined products can legally enter the UK.

The UK government has confirmed that internationally recognized “rules of origin” define that crude oil, once refined in another country, is classed as originating from the refining country for the purposes of trade.

This controversy underscores the complexities of sanctions enforcement and the potential ramifications for Scotland’s energy security if the Grangemouth refinery closes.

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