German refinery halts Russian oil imports over contamination: Handelsblatt

BERLIN (Reuters) - The PCK refinery in eastern Germany has halted imports of Russian oil via the Druzhba pipeline after once again finding “slightly elevated” levels of organic chlorides, the refinery’s owner Shell told Handelsblatt newspaper on Friday.

The pipeline, which brings oil from deep inside Russia to much of eastern and central Europe, has been plagued by a contamination crisis that disrupted flows from the world’s second-largest exporter of crude.

Organic cholorides are used in oil production but can damage refinery equipment if not removed.

In April, Transneft TRNF_p.MM, the pipeline's owner, pumped some 5 million tonnes of contaminated oil through its pipelines, forcing refineries throughout much of central and eastern Europe to suspend or reduce production at a cost of billions of euros.

That case is now the subject of a criminal inquiry in Russia.

The PCK refinery, owned jointly by Russia’s Rosneft, Italy’s Eni and Shell, would continue functioning using gas diverted from the port of Rostock, though volumes would have to be adjusted, the newspaper reported.

The PCK refinery was not immediately available to comment.

The German oil industry association MWV confirmed that oil deliveries to Germany via the Druzhba pipeline were partially suspended, but could not say the reason or say when full operations would resume.

Reporting by Thomas Escritt, editing by Louise Heavens