The business model that NIS opted for in the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic and the oil market crisis yielded good results in the third quarter of the current year. Relying on its own resources and improving business efficiency and cost saving measures at all levels, the NIS Group recorded a net profit of RSD 1.9 billion in the period from July to September, despite unfavourable macroeconomic circumstances. This result is even more impressive if we know that the average price of a barrel of Brent crude in this period was $43, which is 31 percent less than the price of this type of oil in the third quarter of 2019. However, the results achieved in the first half of this year, in the context of a sharp drop in oil prices and a significant decrease in demand due to the coronavirus pandemic, have caused NIS to record a net loss of RSD 8.3 billion in the first nine months of 2020. It is of particular importance that, despite negative market trends, NIS has maintained its EBITDA at a positive level of RSD 10.4 billion, as well as a positive operating cash flow of RSD 19.6 billion. These results were achieved while maintaining complete stability in the petroleum products market, as well as protecting the health of our employees and consumers.
It is important to point out that NIS also implemented a large investment portfolio worth RSD 20.7 billion in nine months in 2020 and thus remained among the leading domestic investors. Among other things, the delayed Coking Unit, a key project of the second phase of the modernization of the Pančevo Oil Refinery, has been completed. This unit's commercial operation will bring numerous environmental and business benefits for NIS, the Republic of Serbia and its citizens. These primarily include the cessation of the production of high-sulphur fuel oil and the reduction of emissions of gases and particulate matter into the atmosphere. In addition, the energy efficiency of the Refinery has been improved, which will further expand the product range by starting the production of petroleum coke, which has so far been imported into Serbia. Also, the new unit will enable the production of larger quantities of the most valuable fuels - diesel, gasoline and liquid petroleum gas. In addition to the modernization of the Refinery, the bulk of NIS investments in nine months in 2020 went into oil and gas exploration and production projects, as well as into the modernization and development of the retail network in Serbia and the region. In the reporting period, the NIS Group's liabilities payable to the state budget amounted to RSD 131.8 billion.
In terms of operational indicators, a total of 952,000 tonnes of oil and gas equivalent were produced in January-September, or one percent less than the nine months of the previous year. The refining output for crude oil and intermediaries amounted to 2.6 million tonnes, which is 14 percent more than in the comparative period in 2019. The total sales of petroleum products reached 2.5 million tonnes, which is three percent less compared to nine months last year, but a good result nevertheless, given the sharp decline in fuel demand due to the restrictions imposed to combat coronavirus. In addition, NIS continued with the modernization of its retail network and launched the state-of-the-art fuel supply station "Novi Sad 16" on the Novi Sad-Belgrade motorway. At the same time, network development in the region continued by opening a petrol station in Prnjavor (Republika Srpska, Bosnia and Herzegovina). In the rest of this year, NIS will remain focused on maintaining liquidity and improving financial results and performance indicators, while protecting the health of its employees and consumers. The company will also insist on implementing a programme of austerity measures, as well as on additional efficiency improvements in all business segments.
In addition to its business activities, NIS continued to provide strong support to the community. Thus, 72 projects worth RSD 114.5 million were selected through an open call within the Together for the Community programme, and NIS will use them to support digitization in schools and contribute to the safety of teachers and students. Also, in cooperation with UNICEF, NIS donated 50 oxygen flow meters to health providers in Belgrade and thus further contributed to the fight against COVID-19. Cooperation with leading domestic educational institutions continued - a common space was opened at the Faculty of Electronic Engineering in Niš, in which NIS' representatives will jointly work with students and professors of this faculty on projects in the field of digitization. It is of particular importance to NIS is that