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Trieste crude oil terminal and Transalpine Pipeline – a strong Italian connection

The port of Trieste once bustled with people trading coffee, sugar, cotton, and tropical fruit. Today, Muggia Bay is home to Europe’s largest crude oil terminal in the Mediterranean. OMV transports all of its crude oil imports through the Transalpine oil pipeline, which begins in Trieste.

The history of Trieste Port starts with Emperor Charles VI. It was the Austrian monarch who founded a free port in the Italian border city of Trieste in 1719. By 1802, around 5,400 ships were already heading for the bay on the upper Adriatic. By the end of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy in 1918, the port had grown into one of the most important trading centers in Central Europe.

Hundreds of vessels loaded in North Africa, Nigeria, the Middle East, or Russia set course for the Gulf of Trieste. Around 42 million tonnes of crude oil turn up here every year
Mauro Szalay, Operations Director of the Società Italiana per l’Oleodotto Transalpino

An ordinary day in a crude oil terminal

24 hours a day, 365 days a year, there are a total of 70 people working in shifts to ensure that everything runs smoothly at the port, which is operated by SIOT (Società Italiana per l’Oleodotto Transalpino). Imagine the daily routine: between 80,000 and 135,000 tons of crude oil are carried on board the deep-sea vessels that travel to Trieste every day. These deep-sea tankers are then pumped out and four transfer pipelines send the liquid freight to the San Dorligo della Valle tank farm a few kilometers away. There, the crude oil is temporarily stored in one of the 32 tanks.

 

“Our facility has a total capacity of more than two million cubic meters. That means we can discharge over 10,000 cubic meters of oil per tanker on an hourly basis”, explains Mauro Szalay, Operations Director of Società Italiana per l’Oleodotto Transalpino. Nevertheless, it takes up to 30 hours before a tanker is emptied. In order to reduce the wait, the processing order of the deep-sea tankers is clearly defined. Every vessel knows the earliest time it can unload and preference is given to those who can hand off their load as quickly as possible.

Every year around 150 tankers with OMV crude oil arrive at Trieste Port. We transport around 3.5 million tonnes on to the Burghausen Refinery and around 8 million tonnes go to the Schwechat Refinery.
Michael Cech, Head of Pipeline Joint Ventures & Shipping at OMV Refining & Marketing GmbH

Heading north through the pipeline

This crude oil reaches Austria, the Czech Republic, and Southern Germany through the Transalpine Pipeline (TAL) which starts in Muggia Bay. With a 25-percent stake, OMV is the main shareholder of this pipeline, which is run by a total of ten shareholders. The TAL was built in 1967, is around 753 kilometers long, and supplies a total of eight refineries along the pipeline. “EU law states that every refinery along the pipeline has to have access to the TAL”, explains Michael Cech, Head of Pipeline Joint Ventures & Shipping at OMV.

The Adria-Wien-Pipeline takes over the transport from Würmlach in Carinthia, a borough of 350 people. The route from Carinthia to the Schwechat Refinery near Vienna is 420 kilometers long. It runs over hill and dale, mountain and valley, and a total of 12,000 meters of altitude, passing through around 8,000 plots and 93 boroughs.

OMV is well aware of its environmental responsibility. “We invest double-digit millions in the entire Transalpine Pipeline,” explains Michael Cech. The regular precautions include: renovating tanks, extensive monitoring of pipeline wall thickness, constant monitoring of the chartered tankers and their crew. “We always ask ourselves, where are the sensitive areas? Because safety is our highest priority,” says Michael Cech.

If you want to find out more about the path that the crude oil has taken before arriving in Trieste, you can read about its journey in detail here: How did this happen? The path of oil.

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