The Mozyr oil refinery in Belarus has started refining the first shipment of oil imported from Venezuela, a spokesman for the refinery said.
Belarus has bought 80,000 metric tons of Santa Barbara brand oil from Venezuela to test the viability of its refining at domestic facilities for further sales and distribution on the European oil market.
"The [Mozyr] refinery has received half of the oil shipment from Venezuela and has started the refinery process," the official said on Tuesday.
Minsk and Caracas have agreed on the supplies of Venezuelan oil to Belarus in March. A tanker from Venezuela has arrived in the Ukrainian port of Odessa and the first shipment has been delivered by railroad through Ukraine to Belarus.
Some experts believe that importing Venezuelan oil to Belarus is economically unsound, but the Belarusian government insists that the project is quite cost-effective.
Belarus could import up to 4 million tons of oil from Venezuela if the tests confirm the viability of the project.
Belarus has little hydrocarbon resources and depends on fuel supplies from Russia. Early this year the two ex-Soviet neighbors were involved in a dispute over oil supplies, as Moscow demanded Minsk pay full import duties on crude it refines and transits to Europe, dropping considerable subsidies.
At present, Belarus imports over 20 mln tons of oil from Russia.
MINSK, May 12 (RIA Novosti)