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Russian Court Suspends Caspian Pipeline Consortium Over Environmental Violations

A Russian regional court has suspended the activities of the Caspian Pipeline Consortium for 30 days on the grounds of environmental violations, Russian media are reporting.

The violation was a spill that occurred during the loading of a Greek-flagged tanker last year at the port of Novorossiysk. The company attributed the accident to equipment problems and said, in response to the court ruling, that it was acting within the legal framework of the Russian Federation. It added it would appeal the decision.

The Caspian Pipeline Consortium is the world’s largest international oil transportation project involving Russian and Kazakh companies for the transportation of crude oil from Kazakh and Russian fields to the port of Novorossiysk on the Black Sea via a 1,500-km pipeline. Chevron has a 15-percent stake in the company.

Media reports indicate that the CPC pipeline was still flowing with oil as of Wednesday morning.

The pipeline is the biggest outlet for Kazakh oil, which uses to ship most of its crude to world markets, notably Europe. Earlier this year, the pipeline got damaged in a storm, and most of the flow of oil along it was suspended for a month.

The Caspian Pipeline Consortium came under fire last year after it reported that the initial spill of oil in the Black Sea from the Minerva Symphony was only 200 square meters, totaling 12 cubic meters of crude. It soon enough emerged that the spill was, in fact, much larger, at up to 80 square kilometers, based on satellite data research from the Russian Academy of Sciences.

The Russian authorities opened a criminal investigation into the incident soon after that. Initially, the country’s transport industry regulator, Rostransnadzor, wanted to suspend the operation of the Caspian Pipeline Consortium for 90 days, but the Novorossiysk court reduced this to 30 days.

The CPC pipeline has an annual capacity of 35 million tons of crude oil, an increase from the initial 28.2 million tons effective since 2005.

By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com

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