Belarus has completely stopped accepting oil through the Druzhba pipeline until all the poor quality oil has been removed. At the same time, Russia claims that the oil contamination was deliberate sabotage.
Andrey Verigo, CEO of the Druzhba pipeline’s operator, Gomeltransneft Druzhba, announced that Belarus had completely stopped accepting Russian oil through the pipe on Tuesday morning. Transit is expected to resume on 2 May, but only to a limited extent. Verigo believes that it will take “at least half a year of intense work” to bring the system back to full capacity. The Druzhba pipeline is expected to operate at 60-65% of its nominal average load by 11 May.
The suspension of normal oil transit is needed so that the poor quality oil from the Russian stretch of the pipe can be removed. The contaminated oil will be transferred through the system’s second line, which will effectively become a reservoir for the substandard oil while normal transit is restored on the first line. There is an estimated 5 million tons of the contaminated oil in the pipes in Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and Poland.
The first reports of the contamination emerged on 19 April. On 23 April, Belarus stopped exporting light oil products (petrol and diesel fu l) to Ukraine, Poland and the Baltic states. The Mozyr Refinery reported that the poor quality oil caused expensive equipment to malfunction. The low quality of the oil arriving through the Druzhba pipeline was also detected in Poland.
The Russian company Transneft has investigated the incident and determined that the contamination took place at the transit point belonging to the company Samaratransneft-Terminal, and was deliberate. “The law enforcement authorities in Russia have initiated a criminal case concerning the contamination of the oil. The initial results show that this contamination was a deliberate act,” said Transneft spokesperson Alexander Demin.