Moscow, Russia – The first phase of the world’s longest oil pipeline has been formally launched by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, according to a report by the Green Car Congress. The first phase of the Eastern Siberia-Pacific Ocean (ESPO) pipeline cost 360 billion rubles, with another 60 billion spent to build a port in Kozmino.

The commissioning ceremony took place at the harbour, where a tanker was filled with the first batch of oil that will be shipped to Hong Kong.

ESPO was initiated in 2004 and is being built by Transneft, Russia’s state-owned pipeline company. It is intended to open the Asia-Pacific market to Russian oil, including both China and Japan. Currently, most Russian oil is produced in western Siberia and shipped via pipeline to Western Europe.

When it is finished, the 4,188-kilometre pipeline will transport oil from fields in western and central Siberia to the Sea of Japan, with a significant shift in the direction of oil exports. Oil is currently shipped via rail to the Pacific coast while the second stage of the pipeline is under construction. China has agreed to finance a spur to the Chinese border.

Environmental organizations successfully changed the pipeline’s original route, moving it away from Lake Baikal.

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