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Poland has shut down the flow of Russian crude oil via the Druzhba pipeline after traces of contamination were found, Reuters reports. An earlier report that Germany had also stopped taking in Russian crude because of the contamination was refuted by the German oil industry association, which said it had not yet encountered problems with oil quality.
The oil was contaminated with organic chlorine, and apparently originated with a Russian oil producer that remained unnamed at the time of writing. The amounts of the chemical were found to be at levels much higher than the maximum allowable amount, with refiners risking damage to their equipment.
Reuters quoted European traders as saying the oil contained as much as 150-330 parts per million of the output-boosting chemical, when the maximum safe amount was 10 ppm. The usual level of organic chloride in crude is between 1 and 3 parts per million.
Russia has said that Transneft, the oil pipeline monopoly in Russia, is working to fix the problem. In the meantime, Russian government officials are meeting urgently to discuss the problem, unnamed sources told Reuters.
The Druzhba pipeline that runs from Russia to Germany with branches into countries along the way has the capacity to transport up to 1 million barrels of crude daily. Yet the contamination has also been found in tanker cargoes loaded at the Ust Luga port.
According to Reuters trading sources, at least five vessels belonging to Rosneft, Surgutneftegaz, and Kazakh companies, have set sail from the terminal with contaminated cargo. The buyers of the cargoes include Total, Trafigura, Vitol, and Equinor.
“No one wants to stop the refineries in Germany. They will be operating at lower capacity now and may import some crude from the sea,” one of the sources said.
This is the first time in about ten years that Russia crude was found to be contaminated with organic chloride.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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Irina is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.