On Friday night, the first consignment of crude oil will arrive at the OKTA refinery, in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) via a new pipeline connecting the refinery – majority owned by Hellenic Petroleum and located in the capital city of Skopje – with Hellenic Petroleum’s storage facilities at Ionia, near Thessaloniki. At the same time, planning for a pipeline linking the OKTA refinery to Kosovo is proceeding at full speed. Construction is expected to begin before year’s end. The Ionia-Skopje pipeline actually began operating last Saturday, when crude oil started flowing from Ionia. It will take six days for the 23,200 tons of oil to reach Skopje because the UK firm that constructed it requested that the pipeline initially operate at slow speeds. This is seen as a pilot operation. Actually, OKTA will not begin refining oil sent from Greece until September, because there are enough supplies of refined products in Thessaloniki. The official opening of the pipeline will take place on Tuesday, July 2, in Thessaloniki. FYROM Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski and Greek Development Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos will attend. The ceremony will be repeated the following day in Skopje. The pipeline is 210 kilometers (130 miles) long, with 150 km inside FYROM territory. A total of $110 million was spent on its construction, of which $60 million was privately raised by Hellenic Petroleum. The other $50 million was provided via a loan from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). Hellenic Petroleum owns 80 percent of the pipeline, with the FYROM government holding the other 20 percent. The pipeline is operated by Hellenic Petroleum subsidiary ELPET Valkaniki SA, which also owns 66.5 percent of OKTA. Recently, ELPET President Giorgos Halvatzoglou met with Georgievski and the premier of the Kosovo province, Bajram Rexhepi, to discuss the construction of a pipeline carrying refined petroleum products from Skopje to Kosovo. A preliminary study on the pipeline by British company Pespen has been completed. Hellenic Petroleum experts will soon examine the terrain to see if any changes in the pipeline’s route are necessary. There are two options as to the terminus: One is the FYROM-Kosovo border and the other, Kosovo’s capital Pristina.