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For many years, crude oil piped in from Russia has flowed into a large refinery in Schwedt, an industrial metropolis on the banks of the Oder River in Germany, offering jobs for hundreds of employees and a dependable supply of gasoline, jet gas and heating oil for residents of Berlin.

Now, as European Union member states wrestle to agree on the phrases of an oil embargo to punish Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine, the Schwedt refinery has turn out to be the foremost stumbling block in Germany’s effort to sever its reliance on Russian oil. The prospect has raised alarm among the many refinery’s 1,200 staff.

Germany depends on Russia for a couple of third of its oil, and Robert Habeck, the financial system minister and vice chancellor, has spent weeks making ready for an embargo, jetting from the United Arab Emirates to Washington to Warsaw to line up different sources of crude.

“The final third is the issue,” Mr. Habeck stated in a video geared toward explaining the scenario to Germans. And most of that Russian oil comes via the refinery in Schwedt.

The refinery is a looming image of how deeply Germany’s oil and fuel wants are tied to its big vitality exporter to the east. The PCK refinery — the title is a nod to its East German roots because the state-owned “Petrolchemisches Kombinat,” or Petrochemical Mix — is owned by Rosneft, the Russian state-owned oil firm. It’s linked to the Soviet-era Druzhba pipeline, one of many world’s longest, bringing oil from Siberian wells to Western Europe.

And it stays a vital a part of Germany’s vitality wants, producing fuels for Berlin — Germany’s largest metropolis — and close by areas, together with elements of Poland. Sourcing sufficient oil to exchange the 12 million tons of crude processed annually in Schwedt — by way of German and Polish ports to the north — is just one piece of the puzzle, as a result of Rosneft has advised German officers it has no real interest in working the refinery utilizing non-Russian oil.

Credit score…Filip Singer/EPA, by way of Shutterstock

To deal with that downside, Germany’s Parliament accepted a legislation final week that will make it simpler for the federal government to grab important infrastructure underneath international possession to stop a nationwide emergency. Ought to the oil embargo undergo, German officers stated the brand new legislation would enable Berlin to make sure an ample provide of oil merchandise till one other firm might be discovered to amass Rosneft’s stake.

Shell, Europe’s largest vitality firm, which holds a 37.5 p.c stake in PCK, stated not too long ago that it could help the refinery, “even at the price of financial losses with the intention to keep provides to the area.” Final yr, Shell sought to promote its stake within the refinery and Rosneft moved to amass it, however Germany’s financial system ministry, which weighs political and strategic features of international investments, has but to approve it.

One other vitality agency, Alcmene, a part of the privately owned British vitality holding firm Liwathon Group, has expressed curiosity in investing in Schwedt. “We might be capable to ship safety of provide and full utilization of the PCK refinery via German ports” with out authorities subsidies, Alcmene stated in an emailed assertion.

Credit score…Katrin Streicher for The New York Instances

Chancellor Olaf Scholz has made clear that he was conscious of issues surrounding the refinery, and regarded guaranteeing its future a precedence.

“We’re wanting very intently at how this will truly work out,” he advised a latest assembly of his celebration within the state of Brandenburg. “We’re additionally going to guarantee that staff aren’t left on their very own.”

Fears that layoffs might be across the nook drew lots of of employees, many dressed within the PCK’s official fluorescent orange and forest inexperienced colours, to the corporate canteen earlier this month for a town-hall assembly with Mr. Habeck.

Like different areas of the previous East Germany, Schwedt skilled widespread job losses after the collapse of communism. Reminiscences of 25 p.c unemployment nonetheless hang-out the area.

As well as, the refinery is not only a supply of oil and earnings, it’s also the core of the town’s identification. Flattened by the Soviet Union on the finish of World Warfare II, the arrival of the oil pipeline — its title, Druzhba, means friendship in Russian — and refinery within the late Nineteen Sixties drew hundreds of employees and their households, lured by safe jobs. PCK’s slogan is: “We transfer Berlin and Brandenburg!”

At the moment, roughly a tenth of the town’s 30,000 inhabitants maintain safe union jobs on the refinery and supporting industries. Many employees used the assembly with Mr. Habeck to query the federal government’s strategy.

Credit score…Jens Schlueter/Agence France-Presse — Getty Pictures

“Why ought to we take a enterprise accomplice that for many years has been dependable and at all times delivered, and slap them with an embargo?” stated one man who recognized himself as having labored on the refinery for 27 years.

“My want would truly be to maintain the Druzhba pipeline out of the embargo totally,” stated one other worker, who recognized herself because the mom of three younger kids. “There isn’t any different that’s worthwhile.”

Reporters had been requested to not determine the staff who spoke through the occasion, to guard their privateness.

Mr. Habeck tried to guarantee the gang that the refinery would hold working. “If the whole lot capabilities as it could on paper,” crude from Norway or the Center East might be shipped from the ports of Rostock and Gdansk, Poland, each linked to the refinery by pipelines.

On the identical time, he acknowledged, there have been a number of factors within the course of the place it might hit a snag.

The PCK facility, like different refineries, is engineered to course of the actual sort of crude oil arriving from Russia. Crude coming in from different nations must be combined with oil held in reserve tanks on Germany’s northwestern coast to create an acceptable mix.

Getting that reserve oil to the pipeline in Rostock would require a seven-day journey by sea, as a result of no pipelines cross the previous boundary that divided East and West Germany, and the nation’s principal railway cargo operator has nearly no oil automobiles.

One other potential complication: The Polish authorities is refusing to work with Russian entities, and it has advised German officers that so long as Rosneft holds an curiosity within the refinery, no oil might be arriving from Gdansk.

Credit score…Katrin Streicher for The New York Instances

“We will’t be utterly positive about something that we’re doing,” Mr. Habeck advised the refinery staff. “However at the very least it has been completely mentioned and thought via.”

In the end, Mr. Habeck and native officers wish to see the refinery abandon fossil fuels and give attention to processing renewable vitality. In recent times, PCK has invested in growing artificial gas with a give attention to hydrogen. Verbio, an organization producing ethanol from native sources, has been working on the positioning of the refinery, feeding bioenergy into the town’s heating system.

Officers in Berlin careworn the financial attraction of the encompassing area, pointing to the newly accomplished Tesla meeting plant and Intel’s announcement of a $19 billion chip-making facility. Each firms had been drawn by an abundance of renewable vitality, stated Carsten Schneider, Chancellor Scholz’s liaison for jap Germany, who additionally spoke to the Schwedt residents.

“I assured them that the German authorities wouldn’t simply abandon them, however would make an effort, each for a short-term answer of securing oil from elsewhere and for the long-term restructuring towards manufacturing of regenerative vitality,” he stated.

Town’s mayor, Annekathrin Hoppe, stated she wish to arrange a campus for start-ups, incubators and different vitality innovators close to the refinery to advertise the transition to inexperienced vitality manufacturing. However, she stated, that will require “sums within the hundreds of thousands or billions.”

Credit score…Katrin Streicher for The New York Instances

Regardless of all the eye that politicians from Berlin have showered on her metropolis, she stated she had but to see a timeline or any concrete assurances that folks would be capable to hold their jobs, or any pledges of economic help.

“It was an excellent begin,” she stated of the previous weeks’ flurry of visits. “But it surely was solely a begin.”

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