Belarus has sharply cut back on its transit of Russian oil to Europe in the wake of disagreements with Moscow regarding the tariffs for transit through the Druzhba pipeline, and several Russian oil companies’ decision to halt deliveries to Belarusian refineries, reports finanz.ru.
As of January 14, the transit volume through the Druzhba pipeline towards Poland has been halved to 70,000 tons per day, GomelTransNeft, the Belarusian pipeline operator, told Interfax.
“Between January 14 and 17 maintenance work is being done on the Mozyr-Brest-3 stretch,” a company representative explained. He added that the decision to start work was “not entirely according to plan”, but was made due to an urgent need to “eliminate defects on pipeline stretches towards Poland”.
Over the course of the year, maintenance work on the pipeline used to transport one fifth of Russia’s oil exports to Europe will take place on a monthly basis. This will lead to a partial suspension of oil transit, according to a post on the GomelTransNeft Druzhba website.
Last year a survey was done of the 1,300 km linear part of the pipelines, and internal pipe diagnostics revealed a large accumulation of defects, the company noted.
The decision to suspend Druzhba was made the day before a new round of negotiations on tariffs and transit. According to Interfax, Minsk is demanding a 16.6% tariff hike, citing last year’s oil contamination incident, which resulted in extended downtime on the pipeline and damage to equipment at Belarusian oil refineries.
The meeting in Minsk on January 13 ended without any concrete results, and on Wednesday a delegation from the Russian Federal Antimonopoly Service was meant to fly to the Belarusian capital for a new attempt to reach an agreement.
However, the transit war is only part of the oil crisis between Russia and Belarus, which the Kremlin is pressurizing to become part of a union state with Russia. As of January 1, Russia’s largest oil companies have stopped supplying oil to Belarusian refineries, after Minsk demanded that they remove a premium of $10 per ton.
At present, Belarus is only receiving oil from Mikhail Gutseriev’s Safmar group, which owns Russneft and Neftisa in Russia and a cryptocurrency exchange and a number of major investment projects in Belarus. However, the quantity that they plan to supply – 750,000 tons in January – will only be enough for the Novopolotsk and Mozyr refineries to run at half capacity, since they require 1.5 million tons from Russia per month.
On December 31, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko gave instructions for the country to start importing oil from alternative suppliers. Belarus approached Ukraine, Poland, the Baltics, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan.