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Switching to non-Russian crude in Litvínov Refinery is technologically feasible


Litvínov-based refinery of the ORLEN Unipetrol Group, the largest refinery in Czechia with a capacity of 5.8 million tonnes of processed crude oil, can cope with the transition to using exclusively non-Russian grades from the technological perspective. A three-week test confirmed it in October when the Litvínov Refinery processed exclusively non-Russian crude oil for the first time in its history. The gradual modernization of the plant, also in the matter of alignment of the production and consecutive processes to a new crude mixture, will ensure security of fuel supplies to the Czech market and increase the company's competitiveness on the international market. The main condition necessary for the Czech Republic to switch from Russian oil however is the boosted capacity of the Transalpine Pipeline (TAL), which is in the competence of the Czech government and is set to be completed at the end of 2024. Then, ORLEN Unipetrol’s refineries will process solely non-Russian crude, and the Czech Republic will no longer depend on supplies from the Russian Federation.

“As a landlocked country with historic ties to the Druzhba pipeline, Czechia asked the European Union (EU) for an exemption from the ban on pipeline imports of Russian crude. The EU granted the exemption, thus creating a time frame to boost transport capacities, which will satisfy the Czech demand for crude oil from alternative sources. That is absolutely crucial for switching to non-Russian crude. It will significantly reinforce Czechia’s stability and safety,” said Tomasz Wiatrak, CEO of the ORLEN Unipetrol Group, adding: “I am happy the Czech Republic takes the necessary steps responsibly. That is what our company does, too. We are working to implement further technological modifications in the Litvínov Refinery to start processing only non-Russian crude as soon as the TAL pipeline increases its capacity.”

The ORLEN Unipetrol Group is the sole crude oil processing company in the Czech Republic and a significant fuel and petrochemical producer. It processes crude oil in two refineries. With an annual capacity of 3.3 million tonnes of processed crude oil, the Kralupy Refinery, which is a smaller and younger of the two, processes exclusively non-Russian crude coming to the Czech Republic since 1996 through the TAL pipeline from Trieste, Italy, over the IKL pipeline from Vohburg an der Donau. With an annual capacity of 5.8 million tonnes of processed crude oil, the Litvínov Refinery is the largest in Czechia. It has been linked to the Druzhba pipeline since 1965 and processes mostly Russian crude. 

“We have not finished a detailed analysis yet. Still, we can say even now that the Litvínov Refinery can be temporarily operated without substantial operational and capacity restrictions in the new conditions,” said Tomáš Herink, a member of the board of directors of the ORLEN Unipetrol Group responsible for production, research and development. He added: “Still, to keep the refinery competitive and serviceable over the long term, thus providing a stable supply of fuels necessary to secure Czechia’s economy demand,, we cannot avoid investments worth billions of Czech korunas. Among them are modifications in Litvinov refinery based on the insights gained during operational tests in October. Those modifications will enable continuous processing of a wide portfolio of acceptable crude oil mixtures without risk of long term adverse impact on the service life of technologies resulting insubstantial reduction of fuel supplies. We will have an opportunity to implement those modifications, in April next year, when we will hold a regular turnaround.” 

Litvínov experts have picked various crude oil blends whose parameters are close to Russia’s Urals crude used to set the technology and processes in the Litvínov Refinery. After the October test, which successfully tested three different crude oil blends in a total volume of 230,000 m3, Litvínov specialists intend to test other crude oil blends in the coming months, e.g., Arabian crude oil or crude oil from the North Sea.

The ORLEN Unipetrol Group is the largest refining and petrochemical company in the Czech Republic. It focuses on crude oil processing and the production, distribution and sale of vehicle fuels and petrochemical products – particularly plastics and fertilisers. It belongs among the key players on the Czech and Central European markets in all these areas. The ORLEN Unipetrol Group encompasses refineries and production plants in Litvínov and Kralupy nad Vltavou, Paramo in Pardubice, Spolana in Neratovice, REMAQ in Otrokovice, and two research centres in Litvínov and Brno. ORLEN Unipetrol also includes the ORLEN Benzina network of petrol stations in the Czech Republic and the ORLEN network in Slovakia and Hungary. ORLEN Unipetrol is one of the largest companies in the Czech Republic in terms of turnover. It employs almost 6,000 people. ORLEN Unipetrol is also a socially responsible company, particularly in the areas of supporting sustainable development, education, local communities and the environment. In 2005, ORLEN Unipetrol became part of the ORLEN Group, the largest oil refiner in Central Europe.

Contact details: Pavel Kaidl, spokesperson, telephone: +420 736 502 520, email:​

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