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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Mysterious Gas Shortage Hits St. Pete

An inexplicable gas shortage in St. Petersburg saw long lines form and prices double this week at filling stations across Russia's second city this week.

Although most experts said the crisis was due to the closure of facilities at the Kirishinefteorgsintez refinery, those units have been shut down for a month and the refinery says its production levels have not changed.

The refinery, a subsidiary of Siberia-based Russian oil major Surgutneftegaz, is the major supplier of gasoline to the St Petersburg market, refining about 16 million tons of oil a year.

Some of the refinery's facilities are closed for repairs "according to the plan approved in October 1998," Kirishinefteorgsintez said in a statement signed by its director, Vladimir Somov. But the statement said that despite the repairs the refinery's output even increased.

"In the first quarter 4.5 million tons of oil was refined, which is 1.4 million tons bigger than in the same period last year," the statement said.

The stable level of the refinery's output had some industry figures blaming the gas shortage on soaring world oil prices.

"It is probably true, but how much of this gasoline stayed at the domestic market?" asked Sergei Borisov, president of both the Russia-wide and Moscow fuel associations.

Borisov said that he has just returned from St. Petersburg where he studied the situation. "They [Kirishinefteorgsintez] thought about the domestic market in the last turn," Borisov said.

However, a spokesman for the Fuel and Energy Ministry said he is not aware of any increase in exports of gasoline and that all exports are limited and approved by a special commission created within the ministry.

Experts said that the shortages f which may well have been exacerbated by increased demand ahead of the May Day long weekend f would soon ease.

"Traders are already bringing additional fuel to St. Petersburg," said Andrei Shadrin, head of the St. Petersburg branch of Aris Ltd., a petroleum products supplier that has its headquarters in Moscow.

The response of suppliers to the high St. Petersburg prices could cause problems for Moscow motorists, Borisov said.

"Some flow of fuel from the Moscow region to St Petersburg may start because of very low prices here and very high there, but we will do all we could not to allow it happen."

"What must be done here, is introduction of the state regulation for fuel exports and domestic consumption," Borisov said.