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Russia has started shipping clean crude to Brody for southern Druzhba deliveries: Novak

Moscow — Russia began pumping clean Urals crude through the Druzhba pipeline to the Brody metering unit in Ukraine on Monday for shipments via the southern leg of its major Europe-bound pipeline, Russian energy minister Alexander Novak said Tuesday.

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Clean Urals crude has already reached Mozyr, the point in Belarus where the Druzhba splits into a northern and a southern leg, which heads to Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic and Croatia.

Russia is also waiting for Poland, which is served by the northern leg, to agree to resume loadings, Novak said, adding that he expects the situation to normalize in the second half of May.

Deliveries of Urals crude to Europe have been disrupted as a result of the discovery of excess levels of corrosive organic chlorides, first reported in mid-April. This caused damage to Belarus' Mozyr refinery and led several European countries to halt imports via the Druzhba pipeline.

Belarusian refiner Belneftekhim has yet to confirm that the Mozyr plant has resumed operations using the clean supplies.

According to the energy ministry's Twitter account, Novak said during a meeting of the Russian government that "the situation has not affected production volumes and exports from Russia, companies continue to work normally. We expect the situation to normalize in the second half of May, that means cleaning one line of the pipeline."

The Prime news agency reported that clean Urals crude is now expected to reach Ust-Luga, a key export terminal on the Baltic coast, on Wednesday morning, citing Novak.

Previously the energy ministry had said it expected clean crude to reach the port on Tuesday.

Novak said that details of the contamination collected during an interdepartmental investigation had been passed to Russia's prosecutor general.

Proposals to prevent deterioration in crude quality in future have also been prepared, he said, mentioning potential increases in fines for violating technical regulations.

"For companies, the fine today is only Rb300,000 [around $4,600]. There is a proposal to make this a flexible fine, which could be up to 2% of company turnover," Novak said, according to Prime.

The source of the contamination had been identified as the Lopatino metering station in the Samara region, Novak said.

-- Rosemary Griffin, rosemary.griffin@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Alisdair Bowles, newsdesk@spglobal.com