Analytical Instrumentation

  • How Contamination Shut Down the Druzhba Pipeline

How Contamination Shut Down the Druzhba Pipeline

May 16 2019 Read 303 Times

Following the discovery of organic chloride contamination, Poland has shut down the Druzhba pipeline and bought the flow of Russian crude to a grinding halt. The decision follows reports that the German oil industry association had also placed a stop on Russian crude on the grounds of contamination.

According to officials the oil contained traces of organic chloride, a compound that's used to accelerate the extraction of heavy oil. While it assists the extraction process, organic chloride can damage refining equipment if not properly treated and pose a serious risk to uptime. When exposed to high temperatures organic chloride can also cause serious health problems, creating toxic gases similar to those used on WWI battlefields.

Organic chloride levels soar above maximum safe levels

According to European traders, the oil contained organic chloride levels of 150-330 parts per million, which drastically surpasses the maximum safe levels of 10 ppm. Contamination has also been detected at Russia's Ust Luga Port, with spoiled crude loaded onto at least five vessels owned by Rosneft, Kazakh and Surgutneftegaz. Buyers include Total, Vitol, Trafigura and Equinor.

"The investigation has revealed a group of companies that transferred standard oil using organochlorine compounds in volumes excessing the norm. The inspection documents have now been handed over to the prosecutor’s office…four people were detained and placed in jail by a court decision," said Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak at a at a government meeting held on May 7.

Russia loses billions in pipeline shutdown

Transneft, Russia's keynote pipeline company, has confirmed it has addressed the problem, though significant damage has already been done to the country's oil industry and reputation. Druzhba is the longest pipeline in the world, stretching 4000 kilometers from Russia to Germany and transporting up to 1 million barrels of crude a day. This equates to an enormous 1% of total global crude demand. 

The aftermath has seen Russia lose an estimated half a billion dollars a day in oil profits, with almost 5 million tons of European-bound crude held in westbound pipelines. The revenue loss will have an adverse impact on the country's ability to overcome the sting of US sanctions and support national markets after years of weak economic growth.

While safety and uptime are top priorities, refineries must also pay close attention to environmental management. For an in-depth look at the price-tags and challenges associated with good practice don't miss 'Environmental housekeeping around the refinery'.

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