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Czechs in talks with Germany's TAL on oil pipeline alternative

The Czech Republic is in talks with the German operator of a pipeline across the Alps about oil deliveries to meet Czech demand in the event of another interruption of shipments through a Russian pipeline.

Mero CR AS, operator of the Czech Republic's two pipelines, Druzhba and IKL, is discussions with Deutsche Transalpine Oelleitung GmbH, Mero's General Director Jaroslav Pantucek said at a press conference on Friday. The trans-alpine pipeline, known as TAL, runs from the Italian port of Terst to Karlsruhe, Germany, and is connected with the IKL pipe. Russian oil shipments through the Druzhba pipeline to Poland, Germany, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Hungary were halted for almost three days this week amid a price dispute between Belarus and Russia.

Finding alternatives to Druzhba is a priority, Czech Industry Minister Martin Riman said at the briefing at Mero's headquarters in Nelahozeves, north of Prague. „We will negotiate with our partners on the German side a concrete scenario of how this would work if sometime in the future such need occurs,” said Riman. „We can never be sure that the situation we had earlier this week will never happen again.” Druzhba is the world's largest pipeline.
Built by the Soviet Union in the 1960s to transport oil to the former Communist bloc, it begins in Samara in southeastern Russia and runs through southern Belarus, where it splits into a northern and southern branch. The northern branch takes oil into Poland and from there to Germany. The southern branch runs through Ukraine to Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Hungary.

The Czech Republic, which imported a record 8 million metric tons of crude last year, brought 5.5 million tons through Druzhba, according to the data provided by Mero. The rest came via IKL, also known as Ingolstadt pipeline. The 349-kilometer IKL was built by the Czechs in 1990-1995. The pipeline is connected with TAL in Vohburg, southern Germany. IKL has a capacity of 10 million tons of crude a year, more than the country's needs. Mero's head of operation division Ondrej Smolik said that Mero is adding a pump station to IKL and making other upgrades to increase capacity to 11.5 million tons.
The upgrade is expected to be completed in the middle of next year. Mero is also replacing three Druzhba pumps, that will also increase annual capacity to 11.5 million tons of crude from current 9 million, Smolik said. The Czech section of Druzhba can be used to transport crude oil in the opposite direction, to Slovakia. Increasing deliveries through IKL would also help supply Slovnaft, a Slovak refiner controlled by Mol Nyrt, Riman said. (Bloomberg)