Belarus has started planned maintenance on the Druzhba oil pipeline, the main transit route for Russian oil exports to Europe, from 14 to 17 January.
The news was made public by Gomeltransneft Druzhba, the operator of the Belarusian section of the Druzhba oil pipeline.
The company explained that in 2019, 1,300 km of the Belarusian section of the pipeline were examined. Baker Hughes Company provided a report with recommendations on repairing defects.
As a result, the Belarusian operator plans to conduct maintenance on a monthly basis. “The maintenance will cause a drop in pressure in the pipeline and a partial disruption to pumping,” it said.
The maintenance was to replace two small sections of the at the Mozyr-Gomel 3 pipeline with defects near human settlements and water bodies. Russian oil pipeline monopoly Transneft was given a heads-up notice about the works beforehand.
The works began amid a dispute between Minsk and Moscow over a new oil contract. Russia suspended oil supplies to Belarus from 1 January but partially restored them three days later.
Two Russian oil firms, controlled by tycoon Mikhail Gutseriyev, supply Belarus with oil essential to minimum operations at its two refineries. Meanwhile, big oil companies refused to supply oil to Belarus without a premium.
Belarus and Russia have not yet agreed on the tariff for the transit of Russian oil. Recall that negotiations about the repair of the Druzhba oil pipeline were conducted back in 2019. In particular, Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko said that the Belarusian side will close oil pipelines for repairs if necessary.
The chief engineer of Gomeltransneft Druzhba Andrey Verigo said that overhaul of five sections of the Druzhba oil pipeline is planned. However, Igor Demin, the official representative of Transneft, claims that the identified defects don’t require shutting off the oil flow.
Also, Transneft CEO Nikolai Tokarev ruled out Russian oil transit halt via Belarus, but added it is able to divert the oil flows if needed. Druzhba splits into the two routes in Belarus – a northern leg to Poland and Germany, and a southern leg to Ukraine, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia.