Poland halts imports of Russian oil due to contamination

Poland suspended imports of Russian oil through the Druzhba pipeline due to contamination. The issue arose on Apr 19, when Belarus first complained about sudden deterioration in the quality of Russian oil in the Druzhba pipeline. Later reports suggested that the level of organic chloride was 10-30 times above the limits and up to 100 times above the usual. For the time being oil deliveries continue through the southern leg of the Druzhba pipeline, which goes through Belarus, Ukraine, Slovakia, Hungary and the Czech Republic, but they can also be halted. The contamination has affected also the Baltic oil port of Ust Luga. Belarus has complained that the poor quality of oil has already led to damages in one of its refineries and it suspended exports of oil products due to quality issues.

Russian pipeline operator Transneft has admitted the problem, but it seems that the solution is to wait 7-10 days for the quality of oil to normalize. The contamination has happened in Russia, but it remains unclear which oil company is to blame. According to media reports, Transneft monitors oil for a number of substances, but not for organic chloride, which has allowed the incident.

Problems with Russian oil are rare and the incident can contribute to the discussion about Western dependence on Russia. Still, in the case of oil (unlike gas) alternative deliveries are relatively easy and the focus will fall on compensation claims that Russian oil companies/traders will face. The timing was also unfortunate because the issue came amid talks with Belarus about oil deliveries and compensation for the tax maneuver, thus giving an additional argument to Belarus.

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