Druzhba pipeline leak cuts oil flow to Germany, accident blamed

By Reuters   October 12, 2022 | 01:40 am PT
Druzhba pipeline leak cuts oil flow to Germany, accident blamed
A model of a pipe line is seen at the main entrance to the Gomel Transneft oil pumping station, which moves crude through the Northern Druzhba pipeline westwards to Poland and Europe, near Mozyr, Belarus, in this file picture taken January 4, 2020. Photo by Reuters/Vasily Fedosenko
Poland said on Wednesday a leak in one of the Druzhba pipelines bringing oil from Russia to Europe hit supplies to Germany and was most likely caused by an accident, as Europe remains on high alert over its energy security.

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 faces a severe energy crisis in the aftermath of Moscow's invasion of Ukraine which has cut supplies of gas in a continuing stand-off.

"Here we can talk about accidental damage," Poland's top official in charge of energy infrastructure Mateusz Berger told Reuters by telephone when asked about the possibility of sabotage.

"We are living in turbulent times, different connotations are possible, but at this stage we have no grounds at all to believe that," he added.

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.

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".

While PERN said supplies to Germany were reduced but continuing, a drop in pressure was detected, Joerg Steinbach, the economy minister of the German state of Brandenburg told news agency DPA.

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 said that oil supplies to its Plock refinery were not interrupted while a spokesperson for the 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 Kujawsko-Pomorskie region 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, which supplies 90% of Berlin's fuel is particularly dependent on Druzhba. The refinery was not immediately available to comment.

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.

Germany's economy ministry and federal network regulator were not immediately available for comment.

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.

go to top