Russian crude oil made up the large chunk of the Czech Republic’s total oil imports in the first half of 2023, reported Reuters, citing MERO, the Czech Government-backed pipeline operator.

The rise comes even as the country aims to move away from Russian oil supplies.

Of oil imports, Russian oil made up 65%, compared with 56% for the entire year of 2022 and 49% in 2021.

Oil is imported into the Czech Republic via the Druzhba pipeline, which runs via Ukraine, and the IKL pipeline that connects to the TAL pipeline in Germany.

“The share of oil imports from Russia (via the Druzhba pipeline) versus imports from other countries (via the IKL pipeline) in the first six months of this year was, rounded up, 65:35%,” MERO was quoted as saying.

MERO’s key client is ORLEN Unipetrol, a part of Polish refiner PKN ORLEN.

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ORLEN Unipetrol operates two oil refining facilities in Litvinov and Kralupy.

The Czech Republic is allowed to import Russian piped oil as an exemption from sanctions imposed on Russia by the EU.

MERO has begun work on upgrading the TAL pipeline, which should make it possible to transition to an entirely non-Russian oil source, beginning in early 2025.

Apart from stating that it operates in line with the rules, ORLEN Unipetrol made no comments regarding the increased percentage of Russian supplies.

ORLEN Unipetrol added that changes were being made at the Litvinov refinery to switch from Russian oil to other blends in time for the TAL pipeline upgrade.

“In October, we will carry out a roughly one-month trial test at the Litvinov refinery, during which we will test the production technology there in processing exclusively non-Russian crude oils,” ORLEN Unipetrol said.

Requests for comment from the Industry and Trade Ministry of the Czech Republic were not immediately responded to.