Moscow (Platts)--25Nov2010/840 am EST/1340 GMT
Russian oil pipeline operator Transneft Thursday confirmed an 80,000 mt trial shipment of crude oil to Belarus through the Odessa-Brody and Druzhba pipelines was successful, Transneft spokesman Igor Dyomin said.
"We confirm everything went smoothly," Dyomin said. "We didn't have an observer in Ukraine but our observer in Belarus said there weren't any technical issues with the shipment."
On Wednesday, Ukraine's pipeline operator UkrTransNafta said in a statement the trial run was a success and that Ukraine was able to ship crude to Belarus with its free capacity while maintaining reliable shipments to the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary.
The shipment was of Russian Urals crude bought in a swap deal with Venezuela and pumped into the Odessa-Brody pipeline on Saturday as Belarus seeks to diversify its refineries' crude supplies, which traditionally come from Russia via Soviet-era infrastructure.
Belarus expects to start receiving regularly crude via the Odessa-Brody pipeline starting from 2011, the Belarussian state news agency Belta Thursday quoted the Belarus Oil Company as saying.
"The contract for transporting oil to Belarus over the Odessa-Brody pipeline signed with UkrTransNafta runs to 2013 including," the company told Belta, adding that "the volumes [to be transported] will be negotiated later." There are also negotiations "under way about transporting different crude grades" from the one used for the test shipment, the company told Belta.
On Tuesday Transneft said the transportation scheme, which reverses the flow of part of the Druzhba system, posed a threat to European crude supplies.
The scheme reversed flow in one of two parallel pipelines in the Brody-Mozyr section of the Druzhba system to ship the crude to the Belarussian Mozyr refinery.
The parallel line continues to carry oil to Europe and is operating at its maximum capacity of 17.5 million mt/year (350,000 b/d), Transneft said earlier this week, adding that any problems in the system could force the section to close completely.
The Czech Republic said Tuesday it had secured a deal with the operator of the Transalpine crude pipeline to extend its contract on receiving additional oil through the link in the event of disruption to the Druzhba pipeline.
Belarus, which traditionally imported some 21.5 million mt/year from Russia, began to seek alternatives after Moscow in January imposed full crude export duty on the bulk of its supplies to Belarus, allowing just 6.3 million mt to be delivered tax-free. Until the end of 2009, Belarus had received Russian crude at 35.6% of the standard duty for Russian exports.
Belarus wanted to retain its heavy tax breaks on Russian crude imports, as the export of products made from this crude represented a significant portion of its budget income.
Venezuela has offered to help Belarus cut its imports from Russia. "The refineries of Belarus will not lack petrol for the next 200 years," Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said in October.
Venezuela said it would supply 4 million mt of crude to Belarus between May 2010 and May 2011 and then 10 million mt/year thereafter.
--Jake Rudnitsky, firstname.lastname@example.org --Elza Turner, email@example.com