November 28, 2022

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Druzhba pipeline leak reduces Russian oil flow to Germany

Druzhba pipeline leak reduces Russian oil flow to Germany

  • Poland discovered a leak late Tuesday
  • Poland says the leak is likely accidental rather than sabotage
  • Germany says its supplies of crude oil are sufficient
  • Schwedt refinery serving Berlin has few alternatives

WARSAW (Reuters) – Germany said on Wednesday it was receiving less oil but still had enough supplies after Poland found a leak in the Druzhba pipeline that takes crude from Russia to Europe, which Warsaw said may have resulted from an accident rather than sabotage.

The discovery of the leak on the main route carrying oil to Germany, which operator PERN said Tuesday night, comes as Europe is on high alert due to energy security in the wake of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine that cut off gas supplies.

Drone footage showed a black slick of oil from the underground pipeline spreading across farmland at the spill site, surrounded by fire engines and other emergency teams.

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“The security of supplies in Germany is currently guaranteed,” an Economy Ministry spokesman told Reuters. He added that “the refineries in Schwedt and Leona are still receiving crude oil through the Druzhba pipeline.”

The Schwidt refinery, which supplies 90% of Berlin’s fuel, said deliveries are being made but at a reduced capacity.

Germany said it hopes to have more information soon from Poland about the cause of the leak and how to fix it.

Europe has been on high alert over energy infrastructure security since major leaks were discovered last month in the Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines that run from Russia to Europe under the Baltic Sea. Both the West and Russia blamed the sabotage.

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Stanislaw Zarin, a spokesman for the Polish security services, told Reuters that all possible causes of the leak were being considered.

Mateusz Berger, Poland’s senior official in charge of energy infrastructure, said the accident was likely “accidental damage,” adding that at this point there was “no basis whatsoever” to believe it was sabotage.

Berger said the leak was located 70 km west of Blok, where Poland’s largest refinery, owned by BKN Orleans, is located. As a result, part of the pipeline’s capacity towards Germany was not available, he said, adding that repairs “probably won’t take long.”

In the evening, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said it was too early to say whether the leak was accidental damage or was caused by sabotage.

“…many steps point directly to the Kremlin, but we want to be very responsible and only then confirm our assumptions,” he told a Polish state-owned radio station.

Russia is still a major supplier of German oil

The Druzhba oil pipeline, whose name in Russian means “friendship”, is one of the largest pipelines in the world, supplying most Central European countries with Russian oil including Germany, Poland, Belarus, Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Austria.

Russia’s state-owned pipeline monopoly Transneft said it was continuing to pump oil towards Poland.

PKN Orlen Polish (PKN.WA) It said supplies to the Block Refinery were not interrupted while the Czech pipeline operator MERO saw no change in flows to the Czech Republic.

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“The main action (we are taking) is to pump out the liquid, locate the leak and stop it,” fire brigade spokesman Karol Kerzkowski told state broadcaster TVBinfo, adding that there was no danger to the public.

Firefighters in Poland’s north-central Kujawsko-Pomorsky district said they pumped about 400 cubic meters of oil and water from the site, which was in the middle of a cornfield.

PERN said the second line of the Drogba pipeline was operating as usual.

The total capacity of the western section of both lines transporting oil from central Poland to Germany is 27 million tons of crude oil annually.

Germany’s Schwedt refinery, which serves Berlin, will struggle further if supplies are cut off at Druzhba, as it has few alternative options to service its crude oil needs.

The German government aims to cancel oil imports from Russia by the end of the year under EU sanctions. But in the first seven months of the year, Russia was still its largest supplier, accounting for just over 30% of oil imports.

As Germany searches for alternative supplies for Schwedt, Druzhba could be useful in supplying oil through the Polish port of Gdansk.

The German government is in talks to secure oil from Kazakhstan to supply Schwedt, but this oil must flow to Germany through the Druzhba pipeline as well.

Berlin rejected an offer from Russian President Vladimir Putin to supply gas to Europe via Nord Stream 2 this winter – the new pipeline that Germany refused to allow to run. A government spokesperson said that if Russia wanted to send gas, it could do so via Nord Stream 1.

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Reporting by Reuters offices. Written by Alan Sharlish and Marek Strzelecki; Editing by Jean Harvey and Elaine Hardcastle

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.