Supreme court rules Lukoil can remain in operation

10th August 2011, Comments 0 comments

Bulgaria's Lukoil Neftochim refinery in the eastern city of Burgas can remain in operation during judicial proceedings over its licencing, the country's supreme administrative court ruled Wednesday.

The court upheld a previous ruling by Sofia's administrative court blocking a customs agency order to strip the refinery of two key licences, which effectively halted the inflow of crude and fuel sales from Neftochim's Black Sea oil terminal in late July.

The customs move was prompted by the refinery's failure to install additional meters and equipment linking it to the Bulgarian revenue agency, in order to improve monitoring of crude and fuel passing through the refinery and prevent fraud.

Neftochim was now expected to install the meters by the end of the year, Prime Minister Boyko Borisov said after speaking last week with the head of Russia's oil giant Lukoil Vagit Alekperov.

Alekperov "apologised for the problems they have caused us with all their delays and informed us that they would install the meters by December at the latest," Borisov told Nova television.

After the customs agency stripped Neftochim of its licences, the plant was forced to cut production and prepare for a shutdown, sparking fears of fuel shortages and prompting the government to unblock state reserves.

Neftochim is Bulgaria's sole oil refinery and jet fuel supplier.

Last week, Sofia's administrative court eventually allowed the plant to resume operations. However it has yet to examine the legality of the licence withdrawal.

© 2011 AFP

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