Russian court orders halt to Caspian oil pipeline but exports still flow

Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC), which takes oil from Kazakhstan to the Black Sea via one of the world’s largest pipelines, has been told by a Russian court to suspend activity for 30 days, although sources said exports were still flowing.

CPC, which handles about 1 percent of global oil, said the ruling to suspend operations related to paperwork on oil spills and said the consortium, which includes US firms Chevron and Exxon, had to abide by Tuesday’s court ruling.

Two trading sources familiar with the terminal operations told Reuters oil exports from the CPC terminal on the Black Sea were continuing on Wednesday morning.

Three other industry sources said oil supplies from fields to the CPC pipeline were uninterrupted as of Wednesday morning.

Any major disruption to the CPC would put further strain on the global oil market which is facing one of its the worst supply crunches since the Arab oil embargo in the 1970s.

CPC said it had submitted an appeal to the court in the Russian city of Novorossiisk requesting that enforcement of ruling be suspended to avoid a stoppage that could lead to irrevocable consequences for the pipeline equipment.

It did not offer further comment when contacted by Reuters.
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Oil prices climbed on Wednesday, up more than 1 percent at over $104 a barrel, helped higher by supply concerns.

The CPC pipeline has been in the spotlight since Russia calls a “special military operation” in Ukraine, which has restricted Russian exports amid Western sanctions and led to an oil price spike.

Elsewhere, Russia has already reduced gas flows via the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline, which supplies Russian gas to Germany and other European states. That pipeline has been operating at 40 percent capacity because of a dispute over equipment repairs.

The United States has imposed sanctions on Russian oil but has said flows from Kazakhstan through Russia should run uninterrupted. The European Union has said it aims to end reliance on Russian fossil fuels by 2027.

A terminal situation report seen by Reuters showed oil loadings from CPC terminal were continuing as of midday on July 5 but it was not clear if operations were continuing on July 6.

CPC said on Wednesday that Russian Deputy Prime Minister Viktoria Abramchenko ordered regulators, including industrial safety regulator Rostekhnadzor, to inspect the facilities of the Russian part of the consortium.

It said the inspection has found some “documentary” irregularities on plans on how to tackle oil spills. An oil spill occurred at the terminal last year.

Kazakhstan said the government was discussing measures to tackle the impact of restrictions on oil exports via the CPC.

The pipeline exported up to 54 million tonnes, or some 1.2 million barrels per day, of Kazakhstan’s main crude grade, light sour CPC Blend , last year from the Black Sea.

The pipeline’s operations have already been interrupted by damage to the Black Sea’s terminal equipment this year.

Separately, Kazakhstan police said there was an explosion at the giant Tengiz oilfield, the main source of oil for the CPC, killing two workers, Interfax news agency reported.

An industry source told Reuters operations at the field were continuing after the accident.

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