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Tainted Russian oil could reach Hungary in 4-5 days - Reuters

Chloride-tainted Russian oil flowing through the Druzhba pipeline could reach Hungary and Slovakia in 4-5 days, news agency Reuters reported on Thursday, citing a statement by Belarusian pipeline company Gomeltransneft Druzhba.

Reuters said refineries in Poland and Germany had suspended imports of oil from the Druzhba ("Friendship") pipeline because it was found to contain high levels of organic chloride, a material used to boost oil output which must be separated before shipment as it can destroy refining equipment.

Hungarian oil and gas company MOL owns big refineries both at home and in Slovakia, Hungarian news agency MTI noted.

Reuters reported that halting imports from the Druzhba pipeline could trigger legal claims by Western buyers against Russian suppliers, who would in turn seek compensation from Russian pipeline monopoly Transneft.

The quality issue helped drive oil prices above USD 75 a barrel for the first time this year on Thursday, the agency noted. Russia said it planned to start pumping clean fuel to Europe through the pipeline on April 29, it added.

Reuters noted that crude contamination is rare in Russia, and that traders said oil was last contaminated with high levels of organic chloride about 10 years ago, but at a lower level.