Caspian Pipeline Consortium, the operator of a key oil export pipeline from Kazakhstan to the Russian Black Sea port of Novorossiysk, has warned about a major disruptions to oil shipments in March and April due to the impact of storms last weekend.

Caspian Pipeline Company executive director Nikolay Gorban told Russian state news agency Tass that oil tanker loadings were halted on Wednesday, but said the pipeline would continue to accept oil from Kazakhstan until onshore storage facilities become completely full.

This is expected to happen sometime during tomorrow, 24 March, he said.

A major storm along the Russian Black Sea coast last weekend knocked out two out of three offshore single point mooring buoys - SPM-2 and SPM-3 - designed to 100-year storm intensity criteria.

According to Gorban, the operator is currently waiting for sea conditions to improve to inspect a first loading buoy, known as SPM-1, with tanker loadings expected to resume at significantly reduced rate if no damage is found.

In social network posts Gorban stated that repairs at just a single buoy may take up to three weeks or more, with the operator unable to conduct work on at two buoys simultaneously.

However, he admitted that this tight timeframe depended on whether the operator runs into difficulties in sourcing and importing required replacement parts to Russia, accusing international contractors such as Imodco, Bluewater Energy Services and Gall Thomson Environmental of refusing to supply parts.

Swingeing US and European sanctions have been imposed on Russia in response to the invasion of Ukraine.

The pipeline operator said on Tuesday that it had taken its second loading unit, SPM-2, out of service after specialists discovered internal damage to segments of an internal hose as a result of the storm conditions.

“Such damage is critical and makes it impossible to ensure safe operation of the device”, the operator said.

A Caspian Pipeline Company statement referred to an “an emergency set of replacement hoses” but Gorban reportedly added that it is not yet clear whether the lengths will be sufficient to cover the damage.

The company also said that its back-up third SPM-3 had also sustained damage, with one of its two loading hoses, usually floating on the water surface, experiencing a displacement of its reinforcement carcass.

“This hose has to be replaced under safety standards”, Gorban said.

SPM-3 was supplied by the Netherlands-based Bluewater Energy Services and commissioned in 2013 to expand the throughput capacity of the Caspian Pipeline Company's first and second buoys, SPM-1 and SPM-2, which were supplied by fellow Dutch company DBM Offshore and went into operation in 2001.

The SPM-1 and SPM-2 were scheduled to be de-commissioned and replaced with new loading terminal apparatus in 2023 and 2024.

Last year, the system shipped oil at the average rate of 1.3 million barrels per day and de-bottlenecking was supposed to increase this capacity to 1.8 million bpd.

In January this year, the tanker loading rate has jumped to 1.37 million bpd, according to an earlier statement by the operator, with oil being shipped from three largest foreign-led oilfield developments in Kazakhstan, Tengiz, Kashagan and Karachaganak.

Caspian Pipeline Company said in a statement on Tuesday that “repairs may take a considerable time due to adverse weather and waiting for tanker nomination for flushing” the hosing system.

Speaking on Wednesday in the lower house of the Russian parliament Duma, deputy prime minister in charge for energy Alexander Novak estimated that repairs at both SPMs will last for up to two months.

He argued that the foreign shareholdings in Caspian Pipeline Company should ensure that international companies engage in repair work.

Russian authorities will supervise repairs to ensure no oil spills or other damage to the environment is inflicted, according to Novak.

Earlier, Russian state television reports have put the blame on Western shareholders in Caspian Pipeline, alleging that the terminal and SPM buoys near Novorossiysk have been serviced by foreign, and not Russian, contractors.