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European pipelines could contain five million tonnes of polluted Russian oil - Updated

30 April 2019

According to the Reuters news agency, pipelines in Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and Poland are estimated to contain five million tonnes of contaminated Russian oil, Belarus’s state news agency Belta said, citing an operator of the Belarusian section of the Druzhba pipeline on April 30.

Representative image: Shutterstock
Representative image: Shutterstock

Russian oil pipeline operator Transneft said the oil in the Druzhba pipeline from Russia to customers in Europe was “deliberately contaminated” at a private terminal.

Transneft spokesman Igor Demin told reporters the oil was contaminated at the Samaratransneft terminal which receives oil from several small producers, according to Russia’s TASS news agency.

Russian law enforcement agencies are investigating which of several private companies in Samara were responsible for the contamination, Demin said, according to TASS.

The oil was contaminated with organic chlorine, a substance used in oil production to boost output but dangerous in high amounts for refining equipment. The amounts of the chemical were found to be at levels much higher than the maximum allowable amount.

On April 26, Russia held talks with client countries after Poland, Slovakia, Ukraine, and Belarus shut down their sections of the Druzhba pipeline earlier in the week. Germany and the Czech Republic have also suspended imports via the pipeline.

Russian deputy energy minister Pavel Sorokin said at the meeting that Russia expects that oil with standard levels of organic chlorine will reach the Russian-Belarusian border by April 29 and that the Druzhba pipeline is expected to return to full normal deliveries within two weeks.

But on that date, Belarus state-run oil firm Belneftekhim said Belarusian refineries were still running at reduced capacity and deliveries were still halted and not expected to resume in the short term.

Russia has not offered specifics about how it planned to clean out contaminated oil from the whole network, Reuters said.

The pipeline issue has cut off a major supply route for Polish refineries owned by Poland's PKN Orlen and Grupa Lotos, as well as plants in Germany owned by Total , Shell, Eni and Rosneft.

Update: On May 16,  Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak said that Russian oil pipeline operator Transneft would provide compensation to all parties that could prove real damages from contaminated oil.

It could take three to four weeks to get a full assessment of the cost of the damages and size of compensation required, Kozak told reporters.

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