Fuel export terminal operations suspended in Russia following suspected drone attack by Ukraine. Russian energy company Novatek announced the suspension of certain operations at its expansive Baltic Sea fuel export terminal due to a drone attack that reportedly started a fire.
Situated on the Gulf of Finland approximately 170 km (110 miles) west of St. Petersburg, the massive Ust-Luga complex is a crucial hub for shipping oil and gas products to global markets. Specializing in the processing of stable gas condensate - a form of light oil - the facility produces light and heavy naphtha, kerosene, and diesel for international maritime transport.
The duration of the disruption, the number of tankers affected by delayed port access, and the potential ramifications on the global energy markets remain uncertain. Responding to the incident, critical infrastructure facilities in the surrounding Leningrad region heightened their readiness. Security units and law enforcement agencies were instructed to neutralize any detected drones, as communicated by the regional administration through the Telegram platform
The fire at the Baltic Sea fuel export terminal is reportedly the result of a special operation by Ukraine's security services, according to unnamed sources quoted by the Interfax-Ukraine news agency.
"The Ust-Luga Oil terminal ... is an important facility for the enemy. Fuel is refined there, which, among other things, is also supplied to Russian troops," it cited one source as saying.
"A successful attack on such a terminal not only causes economic damage to the enemy ... but also significantly complicates the logistics of fuel for the Russian military."
A potential strike of this nature would underscore Kyiv's capacity to execute attacks deeper into Russian territory, utilizing what are believed to be domestically manufactured drones. This development comes at a time when Ukraine is defensively positioned on the battlefield and facing challenges in securing the desired level of Western financing.
The incident, part of a series of apparent strikes targeting Russian energy facilities in recent days, could also raise questions about the efficacy of Russian air defense systems safeguarding critical infrastructure.
In addition to the Ust-Luga terminal incident, Russia claims a Ukrainian artillery strike on civilians in a Russian-held city in eastern Ukraine resulted in at least 25 fatalities. These events may escalate tensions, potentially prompting broader Russian retaliation in a protracted conflict with no clear resolution in sight.
The offciail logo of Novatek hanging on a wall
Alexander Drozdenko, the governor of the Leningrad region, assured on the Telegram messaging app that there were no casualties at the Ust-Luga terminal and all personnel had been safely evacuated. Russian news agencies reported damage to two storage tanks and a pumping station, noting that the fire had been successfully brought under control.
In a release, Novatek, Russia's largest liquefied natural gas producer, stated that it had suspended certain operations due to the fire, attributing it to "external influence."
The technological process at Novatek-Ust-Luga has been stopped, and an operational headquarters has been established to eliminate the consequences. Damage assessment will be carried out later.- Novatek
Residents reportedly heard a drone in the vicinity, followed by multiple explosions, as per information from the Russian news outlet Shot. Both Russia and Ukraine have engaged in targeting each other's energy infrastructure, aiming to disrupt supply lines and logistics to undermine the morale of the opposing side.
In a recent incident on Friday, a drone attack struck an oil depot in Russia's western Bryansk region, bordering Ukraine, prompting Moscow to attribute blame to Kyiv. This followed a previous day's attack on a Baltic Sea oil terminal, which Russian officials claimed was unsuccessful.
Baza, a Russian news outlet with connections to security services, shared footage on Telegram depicting significant flames rising from what seemed to be an industrial complex. Despite the fire at the Ust-Luga terminal, three international tanker ships were reportedly anchored nearby, with no reported damage to them, according to the St. Petersburg-based Fontanka outlet.
Governor Drozdenko announced the implementation of a "high alert regime," convening officials for an emergency meeting to address the situation. As of the latest available data, Novatek processed 3.4 million tons of stable gas condensate at the Ust-Luga complex in the first half of 2023, reflecting a 0.6% increase compared to the same period the previous year.