Its name is “Druschba”, which in Russian means friendship: for almost 60 years, a pipeline has been transporting oil from Russia through Belarus and Poland to eastern Germany, to the large refineries in Schwedt an der Oder and later to Leuna in Saxony-Anhalt. , which produce gasoline and produce gas oil, heating oil or kerosene. The “Druschba” is a legacy from the time of the socialist sister countries, and is still important for gas stations, heating systems and airports in the East.
But after Russia’s attack on Ukraine, many oil companies are trying to become less dependent on Russian raw materials, even though Germany has yet to impose an official embargo on Russian oil. For the first time, one of these efforts is hitting the “Druzhba”. It is, so to speak, the end of a friendship.
The French group Total has announced that it will stop buying crude oil and products such as diesel from Russia “as soon as possible”. Total is not only the third largest gas station operator in Germany, but also the owner of the Leuna refinery. Until now, it has been predominantly attached to the “Druschba”. But that should end at the latest by the end of this year: then the last supply contracts with Russia will expire, Total reports. No new ones should be added, existing ones would not be extended.
The group stresses that it acts “in close collaboration with the German government.” In recent days and weeks, Total has come under fire for being complicit in Russia’s war crimes with oil deals. The French don’t want to put up with that anymore.
However, Total’s turnaround raises unforeseen questions about fuel supplies in Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia. Because, as a rule, tankers transport fuel from refineries via storage facilities to gas stations in the respective region. Until now, it has not made economic or ecological sense to transport ordinary premium gasoline over long distances within Germany. Usually this only happens with so-called premium fuels like “Ultimate” from the market leader Aral.
Total is planning an exit through Poland, but has a big handicap
Total wants to supply the Leuna plant – after all, one of the five largest refineries in Germany – with more crude from the Polish port of Gdansk. In principle, tankers from all over the world can land; the oil then also reaches East Germany by pipeline. However, the switch to other types of oil is difficult, at least in the short term, according to the Association of the Fuel and Energy Industry (en2x). And the route through Gdansk only offers about half the capacity of the “Druschba”.
Total, therefore, announces that, for example, “more diesel will be imported from other continents” in the future, and refers to the participation in a refinery in Saudi Arabia. On Wednesday, the company initially declined to comment on what this in turn means for utilization at Leuna and the approximately 660 employees there.
In addition to Total, Shell and Aral’s parent company BP also operate refineries in Germany, which are supplied with oil through North Sea ports such as Rotterdam. Both companies stand to benefit from significantly higher fuel prices this year because they operate their own drilling rigs internationally and thus serve the entire value chain right down to the gas station.
After Total, the Schwedt refinery would remain the last major customer for “Druschba” oil. It supplies fuel to much of Berlin and Brandenburg. Its operator PCK has not yet announced an embargo on oil from Russia. However, the ownership structure is also completely different: PCK is majority owned by the Russian group Rosneft, with the latter wanting to further increase its stake to almost 92 percent. This friendship seems to be intact at the moment.