Russian oil refinery in EU state raided

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The checks at Bulgaria’s Neftohim coincided with the entry into force of a ban on Russian oil on January 1

Bulgarian officials on Monday raided the Neftohim oil refinery and 50 crude warehouses, according to an announcement on the country’s customs service website.

The raids coincided with the start of a ban on Russian crude. Neftohim, owned by Russia’s Lukoil, is the refinery responsible for most of Bulgaria’s diesel and gasoline supplies.

The customs service said inspections aimed to inventory the available quantities of Russian oil and oil products remaining on hand.

Bulgaria was initially exempt from an EU ban on Russian crude and allowed to continue buying it until the end of 2024, but Sofia passed a motion in mid-December that prematurely waived its exemption and restricted imports of Russian oil. The ban is to be implemented in two stages: from January 1, Neftohim has been prohibited from exporting petroleum products made from Russian crude, and from March 1, the plant has to completely stop using Russian oil for refining. Industry experts have previously warned that halting exports of oil products made from Russian crude could cause overstocking of warehouses and a decrease in fuel production volumes in the coming months.

Lukoil has not yet commented on the inspections. However, the company previously warned that the ban on would pose difficulties for the refinery, which is geared to the particular grade of Russian oil.

In a statement last month, Lukoil called Bulgaria’s plan to prohibit the use of Russian oil at its refinery “biased and discriminatory” and signaled it may be forced to divest from the country by selling Neftohim.

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