Updated at 20:54,07-12-2016

Russian pipeline owner denies slow repair claims

Russias Transnefteprodukt on Wednesday denied the Belarusian authorities claims that the company had failed to observe a pipeline repair schedule.

Belarus Dzyarzhpramnahlyad industrial safety watchdog on Tuesday shut down a Transnefteprodukt-owned major pipeline, which carries diesel fuel from Russia to the Latvian seaport of Ventspils through the Belarusian territory.

According to the Belarusian emergency management ministry, the Russian company had been told by the ministry to repair 1,082 pipeline defects before July 17 but only 254 were fixed.

Vladimir Nazarov, vice president of Transnefteprodukt, said that the company and the Belarusian authorities had agreed on a pipeline repair schedule in June. "According to the schedule, we shut the pipeline for maintenance for four days twice a month. We shut [the pipeline] on July 16 for four days and an order to stop the flow [of diesel fuel] suddenly appeared on July 17. This was a surprise," RIA Novosti quoted him as saying.

In June, Transnefteprodukt reduced pressure on the Belarusian section of the aging pipeline and cut its monthly deliveries to Latvia from up to 500,000 tons to no more than 250,000 tons, according to Mr. Nazarov. "We have a plan of fixing the defects and the pipeline will remain shut and be under repair until we fix everything or until Belarus Dzyarzhpramnahlyad lifts its restrictions," the executive said.

Some 120 tons of fuel leaked from the pipeline in the Vitsyebsk region in March 2007, with patches from the spill floating to Latvia more than 150 kilometers downstream a few days later.

The accident was followed by another two months later when five tons leaked from a hole in the pipeline in the same region.
The Belarusian authorities said earlier this week that the flow of fuel through the pipeline would resume after Transnefteprodukt fixed all of the defects.