The capacity of the largest power transmission line in Russia’s Far East has been increased by 30% to help power the nation’s rising oil exports to neighboring China.

Three substations on the 220 kW trunk line have been reconstructed and expanded to boost electricity throughput to the 4,800km Eastern Siberia-Pacific Ocean (ESPO) pipeline system.

The ESPO route has been sending tens of millions of tons of Russian crude from western Siberia to China annually since 2011. It consists of two main export routes: one directly into China, via land, and a line that continues to the Far East Russian port of Kozmino, from where oil is shipped to a number of Asian markets.

As export volumes have grown, additional power capacity is being built into the system to meet demand from China, the world’s second-largest economy, and others.

This year, the total transformer capacity of the Far Eastern transmission line has been increased to 458 megavolt-amperes. The utility in charge, JSC DVEUK (known also as the Far East Energy Management Co.), also connected and tested two circuits of a new above-ground line, according to Anatoly Maksimov, its first deputy general director and chief engineer .

“Now we can fully meet the energy demand from the seven oil pumping stations in the territory of Yakutia and the Irkutsk region,” Maksimov told the media.

The full cost of the reconstruction and expansion of the electric grid was about US$12 million.

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Sergey Kondratyev, Deputy Head of the Economics Department at the Institute of Energy and Finance, an independent think tank, told Asia Times the increase in capacity was a necessary and timely measure. “The ESPO system is already one of the largest consumers of electricity in the Far East, so as oil production expands we will need a similar, parallel increase in power consumption at ESPO facilities.”

In recent years, the export of oil from Russia to China through the ESPO system has grown dynamically. In 2011, 13.1 million tons of oil were delivered to China along the Skovorodino-Mohe branch of the ESPO route, with another 15.4 million tons exported to other parts of the Asia-Pacific region via the port of Kozmino. In 2016, shipments to China stood at 16.5 million tons, while deliveries via Kozmino had jumped to 31.8 million tons.

The current capacity of the ESPO system allows transportation of up to 58 million tons of oil per year, with 20 million tons earmarked for China and up to 38 million tons going to Kozmino, either for export or to oil refineries in the Russian Far East.

“From 2018, the capacity for transporting oil to China will be increased to 30 million tons annually, and in 2020 the project to increase the capacity of ESPO-1 to 80 million tons is expected to be completed,” Kondratiev said.