The first tanker carrying Azerbaijani oil for a Belarusian oil refinery has docked at the Ukrainian port of Yuzhny.
The Minverva Astra docked on 29 January, carrying 81,000 tonnes of Azeri Light for Belarus, Belarusian Oil Company spokesman Andrei Sinitsa told BELTA news agency.
"The oil is being discharged into the onshore storage tanks and will be subsequently pumped via Ukrtransnafta's main pipelines," Sinitsa said.
The contract for the supply of oil from Azerbaijan was signed by the Belarusian Oil Company and the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan (SOCAR). Under the contract, Azerbaijan will supply 4 million tonnes of oil to Belarus in 2011. The oil will be pumped via the Odessa-Brody and Druzhba pipelines to the Mozyr refinery in Belarus.
The Belarusian Oil Company in turn signed a contract to use Odessa-Brody with the Ukrainian pipeline concern, Ukrtransnafta.
The Belarusian spokesman said that refining high-quality Azeri Light oil would bring additional profits and noted that this was the beginning of long-term, mutually beneficial cooperation.
The Azerbaijani oil will be supplied to Belarus simultaneously with oil supplies from Venezuela.
Venezuela is committed to supplying crude oil to Minsk, but is unable to meet its commitment at present. This may be because of the investment required in transportation or because Venezuela it does not have sufficient stocks to meet all its contracts.
Under the swap contract signed with Belarus, SOCAR will supply oil to Mozyr and receive Venezuelan oil in South America in return.
SOCAR is interested in acquiring Venezuela's Santa Barbara Light oil to sell on the US market.
A trial pumping of 80,000 tonnes of oil to the Mozyr Oil Refinery via the Odessa-Brody pipeline took place in November 2010. The pipeline was initially built to pump Caspian oil to Europe but has operated in the opposite direction for six years, pumping Russian oil to Odessa for shipment to the Mediterranean.
The Druzhba pipeline, operated in Belarus by state company Gomeltransneft, exports Russian oil to Europe.
Supplies of Azeri Light oil to Ukrainian oil refineries are expected to start in April, Ukraine's deputy minister of energy and the coal industry, Igor Kiryushin, told an RBK-Ukraine correspondent today.
"One of the Western Ukrainian refineries has already signed an agreement on supplies of 1.5m to 3m tonnes of Azerbaijani oil a year," Kiryushin said.
He said that the Neftekhimik-Prikarpatye Refinery in Ivano-Frankivsk Region and the Galichina Refinery in Lvov Region were to receive Azeri Light.
The Azerbaijani oil will arrive by tanker at Odessa from where it will be pumped via the Odessa-Brody and Druzhba pipelines to western Ukraine.
Ukraine's energy minister, Yuriy Boyko, said earlier that Azerbaijan had offered to supply up to 8m tonnes of oil to Ukraine.