Pakistan has taken a step forward in its efforts to secure a loan deal with Russia, as a delegation has arrived in Karachi to finalise a crude oil deal with Pakistan State Oil (PSO). However, the Energy Ministry has not yet revealed the payment method or the discount rate for the crude oil prices, keeping it confidential for now.

Technical teams from the Operational Services Centre held talks with the PSO team last month, but progress was not made on the constitution of a Special Purpose Vehicle responsible for importing crude and making payments. The Russian delegation is now in Pakistan to finalise the government-to-government agreement, including the mode of payment. Pakistan wants to pay in rupee, while Russia is asking for payment in China’s Yuan or Ruble. Once the deal is done, Pakistan will place an order with Russia for crude oil purchase.

According to sources, the Russian ship will arrive in mid-May, and the current Brent price in the international market is $85.16 per barrel, while Russian oil is available at $47-48 per barrel. The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) is asking local banks to open letters of credit for importing Russian oil, but they are hesitant to do so mainly because of the G7 countries’ regulations of following the price cap of $60 per barrel or below it and making payments under Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications (SWIFT) arrangement.

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PSO has never imported crude oil before, and refineries have been importing crude under long-term agreements from ADNOC and Saudi Aramco. However, in the case of Russian crude, refineries will not be involved in the import, but it will be an SPV with representatives from PSO and PSC. Pakistan may get Russian crude price with a discount close to $50 per barrel, $10 per barrel below the cap price imposed by G7 countries on Russian oil in the wake of the war on Ukraine.

One of the top officials in the coalition government suggests that the decision to import Russian crude under the government-to-government agreement at a 30 per cent discount may not provide the required relief as shipping and refining costs will erode the maximum discount. Additionally, Pakistan refineries will only be able to extract 10 per cent MS out of Ural crude and 50 per cent furnace oil.

The government needs to conduct a commercial analysis to determine if importing Russian oil will benefit Pakistan’s economy and to what extent. Industrial sources suggest that the government should evaluate the economic benefits of importing Russian oil carefully.