Russia Says Less Oil Affected by Contamination Scandal

Russia sent a much smaller amount of contaminated oil to Europe than claimed by Belarus and Poland, Russia’s pipeline monopoly said on Thursday, in the latest twist in the country’s worst oil export crisis, Kommersant reports.

Belarus, which transits Russian oil to Poland, said some 5 million tons of oil contaminated with organic chloride was delivered by Russia. Sergei Andronov, vice-president of pipeline firm Transneft, told the business newspaper that the volume is closer to 3 million.

Andronov said some 690,000 tons of contaminated oil had been sent to Poland and Germany, well short of Poland’s estimate of at least 1.1 million tons in the two countries.

Oil buyers in Belarus, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and Ukraine have been affected by the contamination, which has halted exports via Russia’s Druzhba (“Friendship”) pipeline since April 25.

Buyers from Russia’s Baltic port of Ust-Luga were also affected but exports there have resumed.

Resuming deliveries of clean oil via the Druzhba pipeline, which can carry 1 million barrels per day or 1% of global supply, is expected to take longer. Transneft expects a full clean-up to take 6-8 months, Andronov told Kommersant.

Transneft has made it clear it will only compensate Russian producers and fellow pipeline companies while Western buyers should seek compensation from Russian suppliers.

“Together with the energy ministry we have studied the question of possible compensation to (Russian) oil suppliers… Almost all Russian suppliers have agreed with the proposal,” Andronov told the newspaper, without elaborating.

“In case of their refusal – there is only one way to settle – litigation,” he said.

Most Druzhba supply contracts are governed by Russian law. Sources at many Western buyers have said litigation would be a last resort. Russian officials and Western buyers are set to meet on June 3 in Moscow to discuss the matter.