By Will Beacham
The spat between Russia and Belarus is leaving many in the chemical industry in central and eastern Europe feeling very nervous. Fertilizer producers, in particular, rely on natural gas as a feedstock.
And yesterday, Belarusian fertilizer producer Grodno Azot warned that it could be forced to shut down following the natural gas supply cuts from Russia. It would take at least six days to re-start the facility following a shutdown, the company said.
State-owned Grodno Azot currently has the capacity to produce some 700,000 tonnes/year of mineral fertilizers.
Russian state-controlled gas monopoly Gazprom started cutting gas supplies to Belarus this week due to an unpaid debt.
But the dispute could affect supplies to the rest of CEE. Alexander Lukashenko, president of Belarus, says he will suspend Russian gas deliveries to Europe after Moscow cut its own supplies in a disagreement over unpaid bills.
Lukashenko said there could be a "gas war" between the two countries because, he claims, Russia owes money for transit fees. In turn, Russia says Belarus owes it a lot of money for gas supplies.
On 21 June, Gazprom said it had cut gas supplies to Belarus by 15%. It cut supplies by a further 15% on Tuesday and indicated that it could cut deliveries by a total of 85% eventually.
The two countries currently disagree on export duties levied by Russia on oil and oil products supplied to Belarus. Subsequently, Belarus has been importing crude oil from Venezuela.