Russian Oil Flows to Europe Decrease Amid Contamination Scandal

Global oil prices rose to a six-month high after Russia halted oil flows along the Druzhba pipeline to Eastern Europe and Germany last week because of contaminated crude, leaving refiners in Europe scrambling to find supplies, Reuters reports.

At least 5 million tons of oil, or about 36.7 million barrels, have been contaminated by organic chloride, the chemical compound used to boost oil extraction by cleaning wells and accelerating the flow of crude.

The compound must be removed before oil is sent to customers because it can destroy refining equipment and, at high temperatures, generates poisonous chlorine gas.

Russian pipeline monopoly Transneft said the contamination happened in the Volga region of Samara and blamed an unnamed small local company. President Vladimir Putin said Transneft lacked a proper mechanism to prevent contamination.

The Druzhba pipeline, which can pump 1 million barrels per day (bpd), the equivalent of 1 percent of global oil demand, was build in Soviet times and serves refiners in Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Ukraine, and Belarus.

All the importing nations stopped taking Russian oil via the pipeline since April 25.

Belarus, where the pipeline splits into northern and southern spurs, began receiving clean oil this week but most pipelines in the country and further along the network remain contaminated.

Belarus said it might take months to resume normal operations.

In Germany, the main refiners served by Druzhba are Schwedt, co-owned by Rosneft, Royal Dutch Shell and Eni, and Total’s Leuna.

The two refineries bought a tanker of oil each via the Polish port of Gdansk and so far have sufficient on-site inventories to keep operating.

Industry sources say the plants are seeking alternative supplies and have yet to cut refining runs.