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Russia halts oil supply to China after earthquake: company
by Staff Writers
Moscow (AFP) Oct 14, 2011

Russian oil transport monopoly Transneft on Friday had to temporarily stop oil deliveries to China after a 6.1 magnitude earthquake hit Russia's Far Eastern Amur region.

Transneft resumed pumping oil around 1200 GMT, Transneft spokesman Igor Dyomin said, following the lifting of the earthquake alert.

"We have stopped freight shipments as well as pumping (oil) to China," Dyomin told AFP earlier. The earthquake's epicentre was 130 kilometres (80 miles) southwest of the city of Tynda, according to the US Geological Survey.

He said there was no visible damage to a terminal and station at Skovorodino, close to the epicentre, which is used by Transneft to export oil to China via the Eastern Siberia-Pacific Ocean pipeline (ESPO).

The power supply was temporarily disrupted, and some areas of the pipeline had to switch to generator power, he said. It was restored after two hours.

"Teams are walking along the pipeline with inspections," Dyomin said. "We are expecting more shocks."

He added that this was the first earthquake to disrupt the pipeline's operation since it was completed last year.

The earthquake hit at 4:10 pm local time (0610 GMT) near Russia's border with China. Russia's emergencies ministry said there were no reports of casualties or damage.

Tremors were felt in five districts of Amur region, and emergency workers were checking local hydroelectric power stations for damage, the ministry said on its website.

There was minor damage to power and heating infrastructure in Skovorodino area and a state of emergency was declared in one district, the Amur region government said in a statement.

Russian Railways state monopoly said in a statement quoted by Russian news agencies that there was minor damage to its power lines, and one train was delayed near the affected area.

Transneft began exporting oil via the Skovorodino terminal in January this year together with oil company Rosneft. The pipeline can pump 15 million tonnes of oil per year, or 41 thousand tonnes per day.

Under the contract, Russia is to deliver 15 million tonnes annually for 20 years to China at market rate, although the countries have argued over pricing and discussed the rate during Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's recent state visit.

Transneft is working to expand the pipeline from Skovorodino to the Pacific Ocean by 2014. Currently oil can only be shipped from the pipeline to the port of Kozmino by train for subsequent export by tanker to the Asia Pacific region.

The port also has a capacity of 15 million tonnes of oil.

Russia's Siberian and Far Eastern regions are regularly hit by earthquakes but they rarely result in heavy casualties because the region has a very sparse population.

The largest recent earthquake in 2006 injured 40 people on the Kamchatka peninsula and levelled an entire village, displacing over one hundred families.

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