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Energy: The federal government is relying on Rosneft to withdraw from German refineries

Energy: The federal government is relying on Rosneft to withdraw from German refineries

The PCK Schwedt refinery is actually majority owned by the Russian state-owned company Rosneft. The federal government has been in control since September 2022. There was expropriation in the room. Now things are different.

A good two years after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the federal government hopes that the Russian state-owned company Rosneft will withdraw from the refining business in Germany. On Thursday, the Federal Ministry of Economics announced a kind of interim step: the trust management of Rosneft’s shares in the large PCK refinery in Schwedt, Brandenburg, and two other plants, which began in September 2022, will be extended by another six months. During this time, Rosneft is said to be looking for a buyer for the shares. For this reason, the federal government is foregoing expropriation for the time being.

Why the decision is important for consumers

Operation of the three refineries with Rosneft participation – PCK in Schwedt, Miro in Karlsruhe and Bayernöl in Neustadt an der Donau – can initially continue as before. Gas stations, airports and industry will continue to be supplied. The decision is particularly important for PCK, where Rosneft is the majority owner with 54 percent of the shares. The refinery in northeast Brandenburg can process almost twelve million tons of crude oil, and nine out of ten cars in the region fill up with fuel from there.

Assuming that PCK would not produce, according to the Federal Ministry of Economics, there would be a shortage of 300,000 tons of diesel and heating oil per month in the greater Berlin and Brandenburg area. In the case of Miro and Bayernoil, a loss of production by Rosneft’s shares would mean an additional 210,000 tons of diesel and heating oil per month, which would be difficult to replace. A spokesman for Rosneft Germany said on Thursday that with the extension of the trust, supply contracts for oil from Kazakhstan to PCK have now been secured. The step is to be welcomed.

What happened until now

After the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022, the federal government wanted to forego German imports of Russian oil. This was particularly a problem for PCK because until then the plant had been supplied for decades via the Druzhba pipeline from Russia. The federal government was sure that alternatives were possible – that the Russian state-owned company, as the majority owner, would hardly go along with giving up Russian oil. Ampel representatives also pointed out that there was uncertainty due to the EU sanctions against Russia, although Rosneft was not affected by them. It was said that insurers and suppliers hardly dared to do business with PCK anymore.

The bottom line is that the federal government saw security of supply at risk and took control of Rosneft’s shares through trustee administration in order to secure production, especially at PCK. Russian oil is no longer processed there – the sources of supply have been changed. Some of the crude oil now comes by tanker via the port of Rostock, some via the Polish port of Gdansk, and some by pipeline from Kazakhstan.

However, for legal reasons, the trust solution should only be valid for a limited time. In order to find a permanent solution, the Federal Ministry of Economics threatened to expropriate Rosneft’s shares a few weeks ago. Legally this would be possible. However, there were fears of new tensions with Russia and a legal dispute in Germany.

“The federal government decided to extend the trust administration again after the Russian owners declared their intention to sell their shares during the extended term,” the Ministry of Economic Affairs announced. “A sale would be the most legally secure and therefore quickest way to enable investments in the refineries and thus secure the locations.”

What this means for the refineries and the employees

Especially for the 1,200 employees at PCK and hundreds more at partner companies, a lot depends on who takes over the Rosneft shares and how the new majority owner organizes the business. The Rosneft Germany spokesman could not say who the Moscow parent company was considering as a buyer.

One thing is clear: for the time being, the large quantities of diesel, heating oil, etc. are needed in the region and are good business. To secure it, a small pipeline from the port of Rostock to supply oil to Schwedt is to be expanded. The federal government has promised 400 million euros in aid for this, but has not yet received approval from the EU Commission.

In the medium term, Germany has committed to phasing out fossil fuels. So refineries need a new business model. In the case of Schwedt, the vision is called a “green refinery”. In the future, hydrogen will be produced there, which will be used as a fuel without carbon dioxide emissions. There is already a project study on the “decarbonization” of PCK. The necessary investments are estimated at 15 billion euros. This means that a buyer would not only have to support the future plan, but also bring a lot of money with them.

What critics say

The left-wing politician Christian Görke, who is following the PCK case very closely, has been calling for a state takeover of Rosneft’s shares for some time. However, he calls the extension of the trust solution by six months a “traffic light loop in energy policy” and complains: “There remains further uncertainty in the region about the future of the refinery and the long-term preservation of jobs.”

The CDU MP Sepp Müller warned: “The federal government has once again made the PCK-Schwedt a plaything.” An expropriation would be legally shaky; extending the trust would be the right thing to do. “The climate ministry’s long game of poker has lost a lot of trust and planning security at the location,” said Müller.

Source: Stern

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