Belarus is wrapping up maintenance on the Druzhba oil pipeline which started on 14 January. As a result, a drop in pressure in the pipeline and a partial disruption to pumping was expected.
The works began amid an escalating dispute between Minsk and Moscow over a new oil contract. However, the Druzhba management assures “there’s no politics, everything is on schedule.”
Two sections of the Mozyr-Gomel 3 pipeline are the most defective and dangerous. The danger, experts explain, is that these segments are near human settlements and water bodies, which carries significant environmental risks.
As a result, 380 cubic meters of oil in the pipeline was pumped out, and the site was closed for reconstruction. Russian oil pipeline monopoly Transneft was given a heads-up notice about the works beforehand.
“There is a certain interaction procedure: every month until the 24th, we inform our partners about the need to perform certain works. In December, we had received diagnostic results and decided to replace two sites.
Of course, this reduced the productivity of the site by half. But it won’t affect the volumes of Russian oil transit to Europe,” explains the chief engineer of OAO Gomeltransneft Druzhba Andrey Verigo.
The company says that maintenance works are not a one-day solution, but the result of a detailed in-depth diagnostics, which is carried out regularly at Druzhba every six years.
“The pipe is not getting younger. Plus, every time they use new approaches of instrumental control, which reveal new defects. For example, previous diagnostics in this area showed a metal loss within 20%, and now it’s up to 40% on it,” explains Andrey Verigo.
This time, the diagnostics were entrusted to specialists of the Baker Hughes Technologies and Pipeline Service International company. Over the past year, they examined 1300 km of the Belarusian section and identified 16 unreliable segments.
The number is not final, as the analysis continues. Ignoring the recommendations of specialists is not an option, pipe failure will lead to enormous environmental and economic losses, after all.