Energy SECURITY 22 April, 2024 7:30 am   
COMMENTS: Joanna Słowińska

Jakóbik: Polish presence in Schwedt refinery is a raison d’etat for Poland, Germany, and Ukraine

schwedt Greenpeace activists at the Schwedt refinery in Germany. Source: Greenpeace / Twitter

So what Poland has the naftoport if Russia can blow it up? So what if we have Saudi oil when we are still dependent on fuel imports? Can Saudi Arabia cooperate with Russia in the region? These questions remain unanswered in the political dispute in Poland – writes Wojciech Jakóbik, editor-in-chief at

Poland’s naftoport supplies oil to Poland and Germany. Its maximum capacity is 40 million tons. The Płock refinery has an oil processing capacity of 16.5 million tons per year and the Gdańsk refinery-10 million tons per year. The maximum refining capacity of the Schwedt refinery is 11.5 million tons and that of the Leuna refinery is 11.6 million tons. The above refineries, located in east Germany, are supplied by Gdańsk and will need this source in the mid-term perspective. The Polish fuel market, in turn, is supplied with ready-made fuels from Germany.

Oil supplies from Saudi Arabia offer a sense of security in the oil market, but the latest data show that the same cannot be said for fuels. According to the Polish Organization of Petroleum Industry and Trade (POPiHN), Poland processed almost 27 million tons of oil in 2023. However, the high demand for ready-made fuel meant that it was not enough. An important factor is the supply to Ukraine, which has been invaded by Russia. This factor can also impact the situation in the medium term. This means Poland’s dependence on fuel imports, fifth of which comes from Germany, will last longer. Poland imported 52 percent of its gasoline in 2023 including 18 percent of its gasoline from Germany. This means that products from the East German refinery are becoming an important element of security of supply to Poland. I’ve been writing about this for the past two years, and the latest POPiHN data confirms it.

Source: Polish Organization of Petroleum Industry and Trade. 2022 and 2023 oil processing. The share of oil supply to domestic refineries in 2023.

Meanwhile, Poland’s deliberations regarding PKN Orlen’s entry into the Schwedt Refinery and replacing Rosneft Deutschland have hit a dead end, partly due to more hesitation on the German side, which recently extended the trustee board until September 2024. Shell’s shares are to be taken over by British Prax, while Rosneft Deutschland, which is still owned by the Russian parent company but managed by the government in Berlin, will choose a partner to take over its majority stake (54 percent). Unfortunately, Warsaw’s attempts at striking a deal – oil from the naftoport for fuels from Schwedt – despite Orlen not becoming a shareholder, have not been considered by Germany so far.

Moreover, unofficially it’s been alleged that Rosneft Deutschland will challenge the legal entry of Praxa, because in theory it had right of pre-emption to the shares. This means that there will be new candidates for cooperation in Schwedt, and among them, companies from the Middle East may appear, including Saudi Aramco, which has been mentioned in the context of this refinery in the past. The possible entry of the Saudis into Schwedt, while half of the product in the Polish refinery in Gdańsk after the Orlen-Lotos merger comes from that direction, means an increase in the importance of Aramco in the region and the dependence of security of supply in Poland on its policy.

One can imagine a scenario in which Aramco challenges Orlen in the Central and Eastern European market by controlling a significant part of the fuels. In this case, fuel swaps known from the oil market would be possible, in which the raw material classified as “from the fields of Kazakhstan” is physically transformed into a blend with properties analogous to the Russian REBCO. The same can happen with diesel and gasoline coming from Schwedt. The presence of Poles as shareholders of this refinery is desirable in order to monitor not only the derusification of shares, but also the product policy of Schwedt. This is advisable in view of the forecast of medium-term fuel consumption in the East, which increases the importance of supplies from Germany to Poland.

Source: Polish Organization of Petroleum Industry and Trade. Import sources of engine fuels.

From this point of view, the entry of Poles into Schwedt is important for the security of the state and the European Union and the eastern flank of NATO. The security threat to fuel supply in this part of Europe includes challenges in replenishing depleted fuel reserves before the 2023 elections and the potential risk to Alliance logistics in case of a threat. Unfortunately, the topic of the Schwedt refinery is not on the agenda of the new government due to the unclear division of competences. The ruling coalition is also concerned that any changes to the Act on Administrative Departments will be challenged by the Polish President.

A new fuel policy management centre of the state should deal with this issue on the first day after the new distribution of powers. Cooperation between Poland and Germany in this area is also important for Ukraine. The potential security threat to fuel supplies to these NATO countries could lead to the blockade of the vital stream flowing to the Ukrainians.