The PCK refinery in the German city of Schwedt has been processing crude oil from Russia since earlier than reunification, however with a ban on Russian oil looming its future might be in doubt.
The mass of metallic tubes and canisters in the previous East Germany close to the border with Poland employs 1,200 folks, and plenty of native companies rely on the customized it brings to the realm.
“The sense of not realizing what’s going to occur tomorrow is similar to the way it felt after the autumn of the Wall,” mentioned Buckhard Opitz, 60, who has labored on the plant since 1977 and is a member of the native vitality employees’ union.
Opitz has not forgotten the financial turbulence that got here with reunification in 1990 — the dismantled industrial websites and painful wave of privatisations.
The Schwedt refinery survived, after a drastic restructuring, as a result of “it was one of the trendy, as a result of we had been at all times on prime”, Opitz mentioned.
However since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, uncertainty has as soon as once more descended on the plant.
Though the PCK refinery provides round 90 % of the oil consumed in Berlin and the encircling area, together with Berlin Brandenburg airport, doubts nonetheless stay.
And the state of affairs is difficult by the truth that Russian oil large Rosneft, managed by the Kremlin, is a majority shareholder in the positioning.
– ‘Friendship’ –
Although the EU’s newest package deal of sanctions agreed on Thursday was centered on coal, European Council President Charles Michel has mentioned that the EU should impose oil and fuel sanctions “eventually”.
Germany has dominated out a direct embargo on all Russian vitality, particularly fuel. Nevertheless it goals to finish Russian oil imports by the top of this yr.
Oil pumped in from Russia is the lifeblood of the Schwedt refinery, which is serviced by a department of the Druzhba pipeline, the world’s longest oil pipeline.
The Druzhba mission was commissioned in the Sixties to move oil from the Soviet Union to Japanese Europe and stays an important supply of crude for many central European refineries.
“Druzhba” means “friendship” in Russian.
In late 2021, Rosneft introduced plans to extend its stake in the PCK refinery from 54 to 92 % by shopping for shares from Shell.
Germany’s Federal Cartel Workplace permitted the transaction a couple of days earlier than the outbreak of the battle however the Financial system Ministry is inspecting whether or not it could actually nonetheless be stopped.
Rosneft is chaired by Igor Sechin, an oligarch near President Vladimir Putin and who has been the goal of Western sanctions.
“The world was nonetheless regular then. There was no purpose to refuse Russian involvement, simply as there was German involvement in Russia,” Alexander von Gersdorff, a spokesman for the German oil trade affiliation En2x, instructed AFP.
– ‘Pure hypothesis’ –
However Von Gersdorff now has a stark prediction: “With out oil from Russia, the Schwedt refinery must be shut down. There could be no petrol or diesel for Berlin, the encircling area and western Poland.”
A spokeswoman for the refinery instructed AFP it was nonetheless inspecting the “feasibility of various logistical and technological situations in addition to their operational feasibility”.
Some media reviews have proposed that Berlin briefly take management of the plant — a measure utilized not too long ago to Russian fuel large Gazprom’s German subsidiary.
However Opitz is satisfied that alternate options to Russian oil will be discovered to maintain the refinery alive.
One other pipeline ending in the German port metropolis of Rostock might obtain crude oil from different components of the world, he mentioned, and Poland might provide extra through the port of Gdansk.
Von Gerstoff believes that is “unrealistic”.
Rostock can not accommodate massive sufficient tankers, he mentioned, whereas Poland wants all its capability to service its personal vitality wants. Plus the refineries in japanese Germany had been particularly designed to function with Russian crude oil.
However Opitz nonetheless has hope. “All that is pure hypothesis,” he mentioned. “The ultimate choice will probably be political.”