March 4, 2020 / 2:22 PM / a month ago

Poland says could supply Belarus with oil if pipeline upgraded

* Reverse flow capability can improve energy security

* Belarus, Russia locked in oil supply row since Jan. 1

RUDA SLASKA, Poland, March 4 (Reuters) - Poland is ready to supply Belarus with oil, but first needs to invest in its pipelines to enable reverse flows, Poland’s minister responsible for energy infrastructure said on Wednesday.

Belarus and Russia have been locked in a row over oil supply and flows have slowed to a trickle since Jan. 1, while refineries in Belarus have been operating at 50% of capacity.

Belarus sent proposals to Ukraine, Poland, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and the Baltic states to buy oil from them.

Poland’s energy relationship with Russia is also complex and it has sought to reduce its dependence on Russian oil and gas.

In February, Minsk threatened to siphon off oil from Russia’s transit pipeline to Europe unless Moscow resumed crude supplies.

The Druzhba pipeline, which crosses Belarusian territory, also supplies about 1 million barrels per day of Russian oil to Europe, including Poland and Germany.

Supplies in the eastern direction are not possible for technical reasons.

Naimski said that Polish pipeline grid operator PERN has presented different scenarios to Belarus regarding reverse oil supplies, which could also provide useful flexibility and enhance supply security for Poland.

“The supply to Belarus requires investment on the Polish side. We are ready to help Belarus provided they want us to,” Naimski told reporters.

PERN said in a statement last month it had started to look for a contractor for the Druzbha reverse flows project. (Reporting by Wojciech Zurawski; writing by Agnieszka Barteczko; editing by Barbara Lewis)

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