Bulgaria to stop imports of Russian oil
Bulgaria plans to wean itself from Russian oil by next fall despite being exempt from the EU-wide ban on crude purchases from the sanctioned country, Bloomberg reported on Thursday, citing officials.
The Balkan country had been allowed to continue buying seaborne Russian oil for its Neftohim refinery, owned by Russia’s Lukoil, until the end of 2024 as part of the sixth package of EU’s Ukraine-related sanctions on Moscow.
According to the report, on Thursday, lawmakers in Sofia approved a motion to cut the use of Russian oil at Neftohim to 80% by the end of this year and stop using crude from Russia at the refinery completely by October next year.
“The question of moving off Russian oil for the refinery is mainly a logistics question. In order to move to non-Black Sea oil, the actual storage capacity needs to be increased substantially – maybe doubled – so that the refinery can work 20, 30 days potentially without a tanker coming in,” Bloomberg cited Bulgarian Finance Minister Assen Vassilev as saying.
Analysts warn, however, that the move could pose problems as the refinery largely processes Russian Urals grade oil and will have to look for suitable alternatives as soon as possible. The refinery is responsible for most of Bulgaria’s diesel and gasoline supplies, and any interruptions to its operation could affect the local fuel market.
Ahead of the vote, Lukoil Neftochim Burgas, the refinery’s operator, said the motion threatens the operational stability of the plant.
“We would like to emphasize that the suggested timeframe for transitioning to an alternative raw material source is unrealistic to execute. In such a scenario, we cannot assure the uninterrupted operation of our enterprise, a commitment we have maintained for the past 25 years. Given these conditions, it is likely that all fuel consumers will end up losing out,” the operator warned in a statement earlier this month.
Neftohim is located in the city of Burgas on Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast. According to Lukoil’s website, it is the largest oil refinery on the Balkan Peninsula. The company has owned the plant since 1999.
Shipments of Russian oil to Bulgaria have been on the rise in recent weeks, reaching an average of 180,000 barrels a day, triple the levels recorded earlier this year, Bloomberg noted, citing tanker tracking data.
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