Ukraine Hits Russia's Third-Largest Refinery With Long-Distance Drone

Fire in the primary refining unit at the Taneco plant (Telegram)
Fire in the primary refining unit at the Taneco plant (Telegram)

Published Apr 3, 2024 7:29 PM by The Maritime Executive

Despite reported warnings from the Biden administration, the Ukrainian military has launched another deep strike on a Russian refinery complex, hitting a large petrochemical facility about 700 miles east of the nearest Ukrainian-held territory. 

The attack hit the Taneco refinery in Nizhnekamsk, Republic of Tatarstan, some 550 miles due east of Moscow. The extent of the damage is not known, but images posted to social media suggest that it sparked a fire. Reuters reports that the damage was not critical. 

Taneco is a modern integrated refinery and petchem complex operated by Tatneft, a commercial producer in Tatarstan. It is the third-largest refinery in Russia, with a capacity of about 340,000 bpd. 

On the same day, Ukrainian drones hit a Russian drone factory in nearby Yelabuga. Ukrainian sources claim that the facility produces Iran's ubiquitous Shahed-136 suicide drone under license. Videos posted to Russian social media show a large drone with an appearance similar to a Cessna aircraft approaching, gliding in to strike a dormitory complex at the factory (below). 

Ukraine has attacked Russian refineries 15 times so far this year, and eight have been damaged, according to RBC Ukraine. Reuters estimates that the campaign has taken about 900,000 barrels per day of Russian refining capacity offline. 

In late March, the Financial Times reported that the Biden Administration has tried to discourage Ukraine from attacking refineries inside Russia, fearing possible impacts on oil prices in an election year. According to Russian officials, the destruction of domestic refining capacity is forcing Russia's oil producers to export more unrefined petroleum; it cannot be refined, so it must be sold as-is to the global market, potentially boosting supply. However, the White House is said to fear Russian retaliation targeting the operation of Kazakhstan's CPC pipeline, which runs through Russian territory. This could take up to 1.3 million barrels per day off the market. 

“The reaction of the U.S. was not positive on [refinery attacks],” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky confirmed to the Washington Post. “[But] we used our drones. Nobody can say to us you can’t.”