Druzhba, the world's longest oil pipeline of some 4000-km and the preeminent supplier of Russian and Kazakh crude to the Ukraine, Belarus, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Germany, has commanded headlines the past several weeks for its relations within the Druzhba community of nations.
Druzhba, or friendship in Russian, has long underscored the fraternity that nominally exists between its constituent parts. If something is not right at any one place in the pipeline it invariably affects the pipeline performance in the rest. Last month Belarus began maintenance from 14-17 January and immediately oil shipments to Poland were reduced to 70,000 tonnes per day, or half of the usual volumes, for that period. Further Gomeltransneft Druzhba, the operator in Belarus, said Minsk planned to conduct maintenance on the Druzhba on a monthly basis. The maintenance will cause a drop in pressure in the pipeline and a partial disruption to pumping, it said.
Of potentially greater concern is Belarus' president Alexander Lukashenko's statement that his country will start taking oil from the Druzhba transit pipeline if Russia does not supply it with the required volumes of crude, as the state news agency Belta reported. Moreover Lukashenko said Belarus was in talks with Poland to receive supplies of U.S. and Saudi oil via a pipeline from Gdansk.
Lukashenko met Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin last week, but they failed to agree on a new oil deal between the two countries for 2020.