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Druzhba pipeline leg may be re-commissioned in spring

A Russian technical office spokesman said Thursday that the leg of a pipeline that used to pump oil to Lithuania could be put back into operation in the spring of 2009.

Last year, Russia stopped supplying crude via the Druzhba pipeline to the Lithuanian Mazeikiu refinery, citing the need for urgent repairs. “Repair work has been ongoing on the pipeline since the fall of 2006, and must continue for another one and a half years in order to be completed in the spring of 2009,” said Boris Krasnykh, deputy head of the Federal Service for the Oversight of the Environment, Technology and Nuclear Management. Saying that the pipeline had been put out of operation due to widespread metal fatigue, he said the regulator would demand that checks be conducted on all sections where problems have manifested themselves once the transporter, Transneft, announced the resumption of supplies or if it wanted to increase pipe pressure.

It was reported earlier that Industry and Energy Minister Viktor Khristenko said in late May that it was unfeasible to reconstruct the pipeline leg, and that Lithuania could continue to receive crude deliveries by sea, a practice in use after the technical regulator banned deliveries. Russia halted deliveries to the Mazeikiu refinery shortly after the facility was sold to a Polish company, a deal Russia ardently wanted to win. Although Moscow cited the need for urgent repairs, Lithuania said the decision was political. Transneft President Semyon Vainshtok said in June that the pipeline’s fate would be determined after an economic appraisal of the repairs. In May, Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov signed a resolution to construct the second stage of the Baltic Pipeline System, which will make it possible to abandon oil deliveries to the European Union via Druzhba through Belarus and Poland.

The Druzhba pipeline network was built in the 1960s to pump oil from central Russia to Europe. The pipeline starts in the Samara Region, and divides into two branches. The southern branch pumps crude via Ukraine, while the northern branch passes through Belarus, and then on to Germany via Poland. (