UPDATED: Druzhba pipeline leak reduces Russian oil flows to Germany

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WARSAW, Oct 12 (Reuters) – Germany said on Wednesday it was receiving less oil but still had adequate supplies, after Poland found a leak in the Druzhba pipeline that delivers crude from Russia to Europe that Warsaw said was probably caused by an accident rather than sabotage.

The discovery of the leak in the main route carrying oil to Germany, which operator PERN said it found on Tuesday evening, comes as Europe is on high alert over its energy security as it faces a severe crisis in the aftermath of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine which has cut supplies of gas.

“Security of supply in Germany is currently guaranteed,” an economy ministry spokesperson said in an emailed statement. “The refineries in Schwedt and Leuna continue to receive crude oil via the Druzhba pipeline.”

The Schwedt refinery, which supplies 90% of Berlin’s fuel, said in an emailed statement that deliveries were taking place at reduced capacity.

Germany said it was hoping for more information soon from Poland about the cause of the leak and how it can be repaired.

Europe has been on high alert over the security of its energy infrastructure since major leaks were found last month in the Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines running from Russia to Europe under the Baltic Sea. Both the West and Russia have blamed sabotage.

However, Poland’s top official in charge of energy infrastructure, Mateusz Berger, told Reuters by telephone that the leak in the Druzhba pipeline was most likely caused by “accidental damage”.

“We are living in turbulent times, different connotations are possible, but at this stage we have no grounds at all to believe that,” he said, when asked about the possibility of sabotage.

Berger said the leak was located 70 km (44 miles) west from Plock, where Poland’s biggest refinery owned by PKN Orlen is located. As a result, part of the shipping capacity towards Germany was not available, he said, adding that repairs would likely “not take long”.

PERN said supplies to Germany were reduced but continuing.

GERMAN, POLAND REFINERY SUPPLIES

The Druzhba oil pipeline, whose name means “friendship” in Russian, is one of the world’s largest, supplying Russian oil to much of central Europe including Germany, Poland, Belarus, Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Austria.

Russia’s Transneft state-owned pipeline monopoly said that oil continues to be pumped towards Poland.

Poland’s PKN Orlen PKN.WA said that oil supplies to its Plock refinery were not interrupted while Czech pipeline operator MERO said it had not seen any change in flows to the Czech Republic.

“The main action (we are taking) is to pump out the liquid and locate the leak and stop it,” fire brigade spokesman Karol Kierzkowski told state broadcaster TVP Info.

“When the pressure decreases, the leak will stop and allow us to reach the leak,” he said, adding that it was too early to establish the cause and there was no danger to the public.

Firefighters in the mid-northern Kujawsko-Pomorskie region of Poland said they had pumped about 400 cubic metres of oil and water from the site of the leak which was in the middle of a corn field.

The second line of the pipeline, and other elements of PERN’s infrastructure, were working as normal, PERN said.

“At this point, all PERN services (technical, operational, in-house fire brigade and environmental protection) are taking action in accordance with the algorithms provided for this type of situation,” the operator said.

The total capacity of the western section of the pipeline that ships oil from central Poland to Germany is 27 million tonnes of crude oil per year.

Germany’s Schwedt refinery is particularly dependent on Druzhba.

The German government aims to eliminate imports of oil from Russia by the end of the year under European Union sanctions. But in the first seven months of the year, Russia was still its top supplier, accounting for just over 30% of oil imports.

As Germany looks for alternative supplies for Schwedt, Druzhba could be instrumental in supplying oil via the Polish port in Gdansk.

The German government has also been in talks to secure oil from Kazakhstan to supply Schwedt, but that oil would have to flow to Germany via the Druzhba pipeline too.

(Reporting by Reuters bureaus writing by Alan Charlish and Marek Strzelecki; Editing by Jan Harvey and Elaine Hardcastle)

(FILE) – The crude oil port, a terminal which supplies Polish refineries from the Russian Druzhba oil pipeline, in Gdansk, nothern Poland. EPA-EFE/Barbara Ostrowska
FACTBOX-The Druzhba oil pipeline from Russia to Europe

Below are a few facts about the pipeline:

* Druzhba is one of the largest oil pipelines in the world, and was built by the Soviet Union.

* It starts in central Russia and connects West Siberian oil fields to major refineries in Europe.

* It has capacity to pump more than 2 million barrels per day (bpd) but has been severely under-utilised in recent months amid worsening Russia-Western ties.

* The Druzhba pipeline splits into two legs with the bigger, northern one going to Poland and Germany. This section has been pumping around 2 million tonnes, or 490,000 bpd, in recent months.

* The southern leg supplies Slovakia, Hungary and the Czech Republic. This has been pumping around 1 million tonnes a month, or 245,000 bpd.

* The pipeline crosses Belarus, which also takes some of the oil.

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