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Switching to non-Russian crude oil in Litvínov refinery is ‘technologically feasible,’ ORLEN Unipetrol says

ORLEN Unipetrol’s oil refinery in Litvínov in northwestern Czechia can cope with the transition to using exclusively non-Russian grades from a technological perspective, according to a three-week test conducted last month when the refinery processed exclusively non-Russian crude oil for the first time in its history.

ORLEN Unipetrol, a Czech subsidiary of the Polish ORLEN Group, is the owner of the largest oil refinery in Czechia with a capacity of 5.8 million tonnes of processed crude oil per year.

The gradual modernisation of the plant, also in the matter of alignment of the production and consecutive processes to a new crude mixture, will ensure security of fuel supplies to the Czech market and increase the company’s competitiveness on the international market, ORLEN Unipetrol said in a press release.

“As a landlocked country with historic ties to the Druzhba pipeline, Czechia asked the European Union (EU) for an exemption from the ban on pipeline imports of Russian crude. The EU granted the exemption, thus creating a time frame to boost transport capacities, which will satisfy the Czech demand for crude oil from alternative sources. That is absolutely crucial for switching to non-Russian crude. It will significantly reinforce Czechia’s stability and safety,” said Tomasz Wiatrak, CEO of ORLEN Unipetrol. “I am happy the Czech Republic takes the necessary steps responsibly. That is what our company does, too. We are working to implement further technological modifications in the Litvínov Refinery to start processing only non-Russian crude as soon as the TAL pipeline increases its capacity.”

Czechia’s main condition necessary to switch from Russian oil however is the boosted capacity of the Transalpine Pipeline (TAL), which is set to be completed at the end of 2024. As a result, ORLEN Unipetrol’s refineries will process solely non-Russian crude, and the Czech Republic will no longer depend on Russian supplies.

“We have not finished a detailed analysis yet. Still, we can say even now that the Litvínov Refinery can be temporarily operated without substantial operational and capacity restrictions in the new conditions,” said Tomáš Herink, a member of ORLEN Unipetrol’s Board of Directors. “Still, to keep the refinery competitive and serviceable over the long term, thus providing a stable supply of fuels necessary to secure Czechia’s economy demand, we cannot avoid investments worth billions of Czech korunas. Among them are modifications in Litvinov refinery based on the insights gained during operational tests in October. Those modifications will enable continuous processing of a wide portfolio of acceptable crude oil mixtures without risk of long term adverse impact on the service life of technologies resulting insubstantial reduction of fuel supplies. We will have an opportunity to implement those modifications, in April next year, when we will hold a regular turnaround.”
Litvínov experts have picked various crude oil blends whose parameters are close to Russia’s Urals crude used to set the technology and processes in the Litvínov Refinery, ORLEN Unipetrol said in the press release. After the October test, which tested three different crude oil blends in a total volume of 230,000 m3, Litvínov specialists intend to test other crude oil blends in the coming months, for example, from the North Sea.

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