* Commission spells out risks in energy security report
* Officials say Russian ownership should be closely watched
BRUSSELS May 22 Russia's strategy of buying up
oil refineries in Europe could compromise the bloc's energy
security, EU officials said in a draft report prepared for the
Europe's refining sector has been weakened by a combination
of high oil prices, slack demand and poor profit margins,
prompting many companies to sell off refining units, which
Russia has been buying.
Russia's Lukoil, for instance, owns refining
operations in Italy, the Netherlands and Romania. Gazprom
through its oil arm Gazprom Neft also owns refineries.
In a report prepared ahead of a summit meeting of EU leaders
in June, the European Commission is expected next week to make
public its vision of how to improve energy security in response
to the crisis in Ukraine, the transit route for roughly half the
gas Russia exports to the European Union.
Among the many issues it says need to be closely monitored,
it cites increased Russian ownership of EU refineries.
"Combined with the dependence on Russian crude oil, and the
emerging influence of Russian players, the refinery industry is
vulnerable to political interference," a draft seen by Reuters
of the Commission's strategy on EU energy security says.
The EU relies on Russia for 27 percent of its gas
consumption and about a third of its oil, the Commission, the EU
Europe also receives imports of refined products from the
United States, which the International Energy Agency says has
overtaken Russia as the EU's leading supplier, although Russia
seized back the top spot earlier this year when U.S. refineries
were undergoing seasonal maintenance.
For the EU, the biggest gas supply threat is a price dispute
between Kiev and Moscow that has led Moscow to warn it could cut
supplies to Ukraine, with possible knock-on effects for the EU.
There is no immediate threat to oil supplies, as Russia
lacks sufficient capacity to refine the oil it produces and
relies therefore on EU refineries, the Commission says.
But Director General for Energy in the Commission Dominique
Ristori said the Commission was assessing "all aspects" of
energy security, including refining.
"Our main concern will be to increase the preparedness for
the next winter," he said on the sidelines of a conference on
the EU refining industry on Thursday.
The Commission is expected to call on member states to
assess their vulnerability to any supply crisis and to build up
Longer term, the Commission is seeking to increase fuel
efficiency and increase the use of electric vehicles and
alternative fuels, such as biofuels.
(Reporting by Barbara Lewis; editing by John O'Donnell and