Bulgarian refinery Neftochim Burgas, controlled by Russia's LUKOIL, said it had halted all of its exports of heavy fuels as a cut in Russian gas supplies prompted a switch to oil in Bulgaria.
“The exports of oil residue and fuels that might be needed by the heating utilities are halted and all produced quantities are redirected to the local market,” the company said in a statement.
All supplies of Russian gas via Ukraine to Bulgaria, Turkey, Greece, Macedonia, Croatia, Serbia and Bosnia were halted on Tuesday as a result of a deepening Moscow-Kiev price dispute.
Bulgaria, where temperatures dropped below minus 15 degrees overnight, is particularly vulnerable as it is among the few European countries that have no access to alternative pipeline routes and is almost fully dependent on Russian imports.
Gas accounts for less than 10% of Bulgaria's energy needs but is a crucial source in winter as heating utilities in the cities and bigger towns run on gas.
Neftochim Burgas said some 2,000 tonnes of oil residue were already on their way to the Bulgarian capital, whose gas-fired utility supplies heating to some two million people, and another 5,000 tons will be supplied by the end of the month.
The refinery said it would do all it can to provide heavy fuels to utilities and avoid a cut of heating to the households in the country of 7.6 million people.
It said exports would be suspended until the gas crisis was resolved.
State gas monopoly Bulgargaz has told industrial users it was suspending or cutting gas supplies to a very minimum and urged them to switch to alternative fuels such as oil.
Neftochim exports about one-half of its output to neighboring Balkan countries and Turkey. It did not elaborate on the amount of export. (Reuters)