"Friendship" intermittently - Newspaper Kommersant No. 218 (7419) dated 11/24/2022

For the second time in a month, Ukraine stopped the pumping of Russian oil through its section of the Druzhba pipeline in the direction of Hungary. The shutdown was caused by power supply problems due to Russian missile strikes on Ukrainian energy infrastructure, and pumping was resumed later in the day. So far, disruptions in the supply of oil do not create problems for Hungary, whose refineries are currently undergoing scheduled repairs. Experts note that in case of longer interruptions, Budapest has an option to receive Russian raw materials by sea through Croatia.

On the afternoon of November 23, Ukrtransnafta again stopped pumping through the southern branch of the Druzhba oil pipeline, through which oil from Russia goes to the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary. The reason, according to the company, are problems with the power supply of two oil pumping stations - in Brody and Novograd-Volynsky.

Hungary was cut off from supplies, oil pumping to the Czech Republic and Slovakia continues. However, by 20:00 Moscow time, pumping to Hungary was resumed, which was confirmed to Kommersant at Transneft.

On Wednesday, Russian military aviation launched a series of missile strikes on generating facilities in Ukraine, as well as a number of key power transmission systems. As a result, according to the Ukrainian Ministry of Energy, most of the country's consumers were left without energy. According to Energoatom, the operator of Ukrainian nuclear power plants, all three nuclear power plants operating in the country - Rivne, Khmelnytsky and Yuzhno-Ukrainskaya (in the Nikolaev region) - were forced to automatically turn off the power units due to the impossibility of issuing energy to the grid due to an imbalance in the energy system.

The outages also affected Moldova, which is now supplied with electricity from Romania but has grid connections to the Ukrainian power system.

The last time deliveries through the Ukrainian part of Druzhba were stopped on November 15, also due to problems with energy supply, and resumed the next day. At the beginning of the week it became known that Ukraine demanded from Russia to increase the tariff for pumping oil by 18%, to €13.6 per ton, from 2023, arguing this by the need to repair Druzhba's infrastructure, which was damaged during the special operation.

Against the backdrop of Europe's refusal to import Russian oil, the preservation of pumping through Druzhba is most important for Hungary. Last year, the country received 3.4 million tons of oil from Russia via this route out of 12 million tons of total pumping through the southern branch (another 5.2 million tons went to Slovakia and 3.4 million tons to the Czech Republic). And although the country has agreed with the rest of the EU countries on the possibility of continuing the import of Russian oil by sea in the event of a complete stoppage of pumping through the Druzhba, alternative routes are more expensive and will not be able to fully cover the needs of the country. For example, the option of deliveries via the Adriatic oil pipeline through the Croatian port of Omišalj, operated by the local company Janaf, requires the expansion of the northern branch of this route.

At the moment, adviser to the head of Transneft, Igor Demin, clarifies that Hungary does not have an urgent need for Russian oil, since the country's oil refineries have been stopped for scheduled repairs. According to him, Hungary has not been accepting raw materials for three days already, and according to the plan, the refinery will be repaired for another week. In Slovakia and the Czech Republic, he notes, sufficient stocks of raw materials have been accumulated in case of a shutdown.

In the future, says Vyacheslav Mishchenko, head of the Center for Analysis of Strategy and Technologies for the Development of the Fuel and Energy Complex of the Gubkin Russian State University, Hungary will be able to receive oil through Omisalj and further through the Croatian pipeline system.

He recalls that the EU has made exceptions for landlocked countries, allowing them to import Russian oil if pipeline supplies are interrupted for reasons beyond the EU's control. This exception was supported by the US Treasury on November 23. Such supplies are also not subject to the requirement for a price ceiling for oil from the Russian Federation.

Olga Mordyushenko

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