Russia Sanctions Ramp-up Includes Turbine Oils


Russia Sanctions Ramp-up Includes Turbine Oils
A view of the gas turbine engine of a feed gas compressor located inside a pressurized enclosure. Among other applications, it is used in an offshore oil and gas central processing platform. © Xmentoys

The United States last month gave regulators new authority to target domestic and international institutions involved in evading bans on exports to Russia of a range of products including turbine oils and turbine oil additives.

The bans are part of America’s response to Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine.  Among the tools for those sanctions has been Executive Order 14024, which dates to 2021. President Joseph Biden amended it Dec. 22 of last year giving the Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control authority to sanction “foreign financial institutions that conduct or facilitate significant transactions or provide any service involving Russia’s military-industrial base.”

The amendment lists eight classes of items, including certain machine tools and manufacturing equipment, propellants and chemical precursors for explosives, bearings, as well as lubricants such as turbine oil and related turbine oil additives. If U.S. or foreign companies or banks facilitate export of these items to Russia, they could be punished by the Office of Foreign Asset Control.

The reasoning is that these items are crucial for the sustainability and operation of Russia’s machine-building, electronic, power generation or oil refining sectors. A large part of the country’s industrial base is engaged in production of rockets, artillery shells and tanks for the war in Ukraine, and the U.S and its allies want to undermine those efforts. It is thought that Russia copes with hurdles in supply of items such as computer chips and electronic parts for example buying kitchen appliances or washing machines from China or Central Asian countries and extracting processors and chips to build military drones.

The turbine oils listed in amended Executive Order 14024 refer to fire-resistant synthetic turbine oils used in applications such as lubrication of high-power steam turbines in thermal or nuclear power generation stations, where high temperatures are prevalent and can ignite mineral base fluids. Besides high oxidative and thermal stability, these oils also have good hydrolytic stability.

Russia mostly imports these products because of their complex formulation and use of trixylenyl phosphate, an anti-wear additive for high-temperature applications. Like many other essential parts and equipment that are made in the West that became scarce in Russia because of sanctions, these oils are also hard to find and are imported through third countries through sanction-evading schemes.

Domestic companies such as oil giant Rosneft and chemical maker Qualitet are said to have tried to develop such turbine oils and additives for them.

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