SKOVORODINO (Commodity Online) : As part of efforts to shift its export emphasis away from West Europe, Russia inaugurated a branch of Eastern Siberia-Pacific Ocean pipeline that delivers east Siberian oil to China.

Opening the pipeline Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said the project is of importance for diversifying Russia's supplies of strategic commodity, in that it would enlarge Russian oil supplies to the Asia Pacific region.

The ESPO pipeline, running from Taishet in eastern Siberia to Nakhodka, is more than 4,000 km long. The first section of ESPO pipeline has already been set into operation last December.

However, the Russia-China branch of ESPO pipeline runs a mere 64-kilometre on the Russian side but travels a longer 960 kilometres on the Chinese side to the town of Daqing.

The pipeline is designed to pump up to 220,000 tons of crude per day from Siberia to the Far East and then on to China and the Asia-Pacific region.

The pipeline will initially carry 30 million tons of oil a year, which may eventually expand to 50 million tons.

The eastern pipelines allow Russia to access a new and potentially huge market in China that will enable it shift its export emphasis away from West Europe, with which it has shared traditionally hostile relations.

For China the eastern pipelines make available a source of energy supply much closer to home, reducing its supply-chain headaches and the strategic vulnerability that raises from sourcing supplies from far-away politically volatile regions.