Pipeline operator Transneft on Monday, January 8, shut off the Druzhba pipeline, temporarily cutting off the source of 20 percent of Germany’s oil imports, as the conflict between Moscow and Belarus over energy prices worsened.
This has potentially serious consequences for Western Europe and yet again has Western governments and business leaders questioning the reliability of Russian contracts and supplies
Transneft has accused Belarus of illegally tapping oil from the Druzhba pipeline, whose name translates as “friendship”. Russian news agency RIA Novosti quoted Transneft chief Simon Vainshtock as saying that the company had stopped oil transports through the pipeline – which is used to export oil to Poland and Germany – during the night. The company said it is currently seeking alternative routes for transporting oil to Poland and Germany, but did not provide any information on when the pipeline might be reopened.
The Druzhba pipeline is an enormously important part of Germany’s energy supply. Of the total of 112 million tons of oil that are consumed in Germany each year, 20 percent travel through the pipeline.
“I view the closure of the important Druzhba pipeline with concern,” German Economics Minister Michael Glos said Monday. “I expect the deliveries through the pipeline to resume completely as soon as possible.”
“Druzhba is very relevant for Germany,” said a spokesman for the Association of the German Petroleum Industry. Most German oil imports from Russia travel through the pipeline. The only alternative would be through tanker deliveries, the spokesman said, but this would cover “only a small portion” of the lost oil. According to the association, there are no other pipelines available to do the job.
Poland’s Economics Ministry also confirmed that oil supplies had been interrupted through the Druzhba pipeline on Monday morning. Germany’s Economics Ministry confirmed similar trouble.
A spokesperson for European Union Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs said the European Commission in Brussels will investigate the interruption of oil supplies. “We have contacted the Russian and Belarussian authorities and demanded an urgent and detailed explanation for this interruption,” spokesman Ferran Tarradellas Espuny said.
In the short term, however, physical shortages aren’t expected because Germany has strategic oil reserves that can last up to 130 days and Poland has at least 70 days’ worth.