Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Venezuelan Black Sea Oil Route Threatens European Supplies

Deliveries of Venezuelan crude to Belarus from the Black Sea may pose a threat to Russian oil supplies bound for central Europe, Russia’s pipeline operator OAO Transneft said. Transneft is preparing a letter to the European Union explaining the situation, Igor Dyomin, a Transneft spokesman, said by telephone in Moscow. “The decision has increased risks to Russian oil deliveries to Europe,” he said.

Belarus reversed the direction of one line in the Druzhba link’s southern branch on Nov. 21 to carry crude east to the Mozyr refinery, Dyomin said. The branch’s parallel line continues to carry Russian oil west to the Czech Republic, Croatia, Slovakia, Hungary and Germany, he said.
Russia and Belarus, which are developing a customs union with Kazakhstan, have clashed over oil export taxes as Russia moved to roll back a discount that allowed Belarus to benefit from cheap oil supplies. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said the duty may be canceled once a free-trade area is created.

Belarus plans to take delivery of as much as 9 million metric tons of crude from Venezuela next year, a Belarusian presidential administration official said in September. Belarus’s use of the line means Transneft won’t be able to increase deliveries via Druzhba’s southern branch to meet additional winter demand and won’t have an alternative route in case of an accident, Dyomin said.

Transneft supplies to Europe have continued uninterrupted through the second line of Druzhba, which is operating at slightly more than its capacity of 17.5 million tons a year, Dyomin said. The crude Belarus received was Russian oil that Venezuela obtained via a swap at the Black Sea port of Novorossiysk, Dyomin said. The 80,000 ton cargo was carried from the Black Sea to Belarus via Ukraine’s Odessa-Brody pipeline, Dyomin said. The next delivery, of 78,200 tons of oil, is scheduled to arrive at the Odessa port on Nov. 25, Kommersant-Ukraine said yesterday.

“Why Belarus can’t take that same oil via Druzhba is beyond my understanding,” Dyomin said.

Posted courtesy of Bloomberg News. Reporter Stephen Bierman can be contacted in Moscow at sbierman1@bloomberg.net.

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