Russian Pacific oil exports to rise in Jan

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian oil exports from the Pacific port of Kozmino will leap in January with five tankers from state major Rosneft ROSN.MM as Russia presses ahead to make full use of its new route to conquer Asian markets.

Kozmino, the eastern terminus of the East Siberian-Pacific Ocean (ESPO) pipeline, has been heralded by Russia as the window through which crude from virgin East Siberian oilfields will be exported tax-free to Asia’s energy-hungry economies.

Political leaders are expected to attend the first tanker-loading ceremony at Kozmino later this month, adding weight to Russia’s ambitions on Asian markets and reminding Western consumers that competition for energy is rising.

Trading sources told Reuters on Monday Rosneft had tendered 500,000 tonnes of ESPO Blend crude for sale in five cargoes, five times bigger than in December when Rosneft sold its first 100,000-tonne cargo to trader IPP.

The cargoes will load Jan 15-31, sources said, with Rosneft seeking a premium to the regional benchmark Dubai crude.

Last week, sources said Rosneft's rivals, private firms Surgut SNGS.MM and TNK-BP TNBPI.RST, will also ship their first vessels of VSPO blend in January.

If all seven shipments take place next month, Kozmino would load a total of 700,000 tonnes, bringing it close to becoming Russia’s third biggest oil export outlet behind only Primorsk on the Baltic and Novorossiisk on the Black Sea.

Reporting by Dmitry Zhdannikov