A Global Witness investigation released today reveals that a Siberian gas field joint-owned by French oil giant TotalEnergies has been providing oil to a refinery fuelling Russian warplanes throughout the full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
The investigation, published by Global Witness and French newspaper Le Monde, shows gas condensate from Total’s Termokarstovoye field transported across Russia for refining, before being shipped as jet fuel to Russian Air Force bases near Ukraine.
Those include bases for Sukhoi Su-34 fighter-bombers. The pilots of these warplanes have been accused by international experts and the Ukrainian government of indiscriminate bombing of civilian areas, including a 3 March strike on Chernihiv, near Kyiv, which reportedly killed 47 civilians.
The findings increase pressure on Total, which unlike competitors has not pledged to pull out of its joint ventures in Russia. Total has previously stated that their activities “are completely unrelated to the conduct of military operations by Russia in Ukraine”.
Louis Goddard, senior data investigations advisor at Global Witness said:
‘’Total have long been accused of helping to finance the war through their trade of Russian fossil fuels, but we now know that they have also been fuelling Russian military attacks on Ukrainian civilians from their joint-owned Siberian gas fields.
“They have said their production has no connection to Russia’s military operations, but that is no longer a tenable position. Total must come clean and explain what they knew about the connection between these gas fields and Russian war planes’’.
Total owns 49% of TerNefteGaz, a company set up to operate the Termokarstovoye field, with Novatek owning the remainder. Total also owns 19.4% per cent of Novatek itself, giving the French company a majority economic interest in the joint venture.
Presented with the supply chain data by Le Monde, Total confirmed that all gas condensate produced by TerNefteGaz is sold to Novatek, making up 7% of the company's marketed volumes, but said that it did not have any information on Novatek's subsequent sales and has no control over the operational activities of Novatek, which is an entirely separate company.
In March, Global Witness revealed that just hours after Total CEO Patrick Pouyanné told the world that ‘’my traders don’t take any more oil from Russia since the beginning of the crisis’’, Total’s trading subsidiary shipped 1.4 million barrels of Urals crude from Ust Luga to Rotterdam on the night of 8–9 March. After learning of these findings, Total announced it would exit the Russian oil trade by the end of 2022.
Key investigative findings
The Termokarstovoye field in Russia’s far north – owned by Total and the Russian gas company Novatek – produces more than 60,000 barrels of gas condensate, a liquid similar to crude oil, each month.
After treatment at the nearby Purovsky processing plant, the condensate is shipped by train to a refinery in Omsk, near the Kazakh border, where it is refined into products including petrol, diesel and fuel for aircraft jet engines. Shipments of gas condensate from Novatek have made up more than eight per cent of feedstock – the raw input for refining – received at Omsk since the invasion, according to supply chain data from Refinitiv.
Global Witness has identified hundreds of shipments of jet fuel from the Omsk refinery to Russian Air Force bases near Ukraine, both in the lead-up to the full-scale invasion on 24 February and during Russia’s continued occupation of the east of the country. The supply chain data is supported by high-resolution satellite imagery.
Analysis by Global Witness of supply chain data from Refinitiv shows that 40,000 tonnes of jet fuel were shipped from Omsk to Su-34 bases at Morozovsk and Voronezh between February and July. The first shipment was sent on 13 February, ten days before the invasion was launched. Neither base had received fuel from the refinery previously since 2017.
Both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have both called for the 3 March attacks on Chernihiv to be investigated by the International Criminal Court and the United Nations on the basis that indiscriminate attacks on civilian areas violate international humanitarian law.
Update following statements published by TotalEnergies on 24 and 26 August 2022
On 24 August, TotalEnergies published its response to questions from Le Monde, based on Global Witness’s reporting of a link between TerNefteGaz, Novatek and the Russian military. In their statement, Total said they did not produce kerosene for the Russian military. In the course of this response, Total said that all hydrocarbons supplied to Novatek’s Purovsky plant by TerNefteGaz “are entered into Novatek’s general input stream and are processed and sold together with its other oil and condensate output.”
On 26 August, Total issued a new statement, again denying they produce fuel for the Russian military and reporting information received from Novatek. In the words of a spokesperson for Novatek, “the entirety of stable condensate produced at the Purovsky Plant from the feedstock coming from NOVATEK’s subsidiaries and affiliates, including Terneftegas, is delivered to the Ust-Luga processing complex …[which] manufactures a series of products including kerosene which is exclusively exported outside Russia and this jet fuel does not have the necessary certificates to be sold on the Russian market.”