Europe’s choice when Russia cuts gas

Europe can share energy with each other, combine racing to find supplies from outside and increase electricity production when Russia cuts off gas.

Russian energy group Gazprom announced on September 2 that it will continue to close the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline after three days of maintenance, due to the discovery of a main turbine at the Portovaya compression station near St. Petersburg has an oil leak. Nord Stream 1 will be down indefinitely, until the issue is resolved.

Nord Stream 1 is the largest gas pipeline from Russia to Germany via the Baltic Sea, transporting about 55 billion cubic meters of gas per year. Gas flow through Nord Stream 1 was reduced to 40% capacity in June and operated at only 20% capacity in July due to technical reasons.

A view of a gas production plant is seen in t Zand in Groningen, February 24, 2015. REUTERS/Michael Kooren/File Photo

Workers turn a valve at a gas compression station on the Yamal pipeline near Nesvizh, about 130 km southwest of the Polish capital Minsk, December 29, 2006. Image: Reuters,

Meanwhile, Russia has cut off gas supplies to a number of European countries such as Bulgaria, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands and Poland because these countries refused to demand payment in rubles from Moscow. These developments cause Europe to actively seek alternative sources of energy to ensure energy security, in the context of the approaching winter.

Before the war in Ukraine broke out, Russia met about 40% of Europe’s gas needs, mainly through pipelines, with a flow last year of about 155 billion cubic meters.

Russia ships some of its gas through Ukraine to Austria, Italy, Slovakia and other countries in Eastern Europe. However, after the outbreak of hostilities, Ukraine closed the Sokhranovka pipeline because it passed through areas controlled by separatists or Russian forces in the east of the country.

Pipelines that deliver Russian gas to Europe.  Click to see details.

Pipelines that deliver Russian gas to Europe. Click to see details.

Among the pipelines from Russia to Europe that do not go through Ukraine is the Yamal system, which goes through Belarus and Poland to Germany, with a capacity of 33 billion m3 per year, equivalent to one-sixth of Russia’s gas exports to Europe.

Russia has imposed sanctions on the owner of the Yamal pipeline in Poland. Poland’s Climate Minister Anna Moskwa in May claimed the country could manage without the flow of gas through Yamal. The flow on Yamal then reverses, turning gas from Germany to Poland.

Traffic through Nord Stream 1 over the past few months has been steadily decreasing. Russia blames Western sanctions for the delay in returning equipment sent to Canada for maintenance.

The Nord Stream 2 pipeline was completed in September 2021, running almost parallel to Nord Stream 1, but is being indefinitely postponed by Berlin to grant the operating license from February, right after Moscow recognized the independence of the two pipelines. breakaway regions in Ukraine.

Europe’s Alternative Supplies

Several European countries have found alternative supplies to Russia and can share through a regional pipeline network. However, competition for gas supply in the global market is increasingly fierce.

Germany, the European country most dependent on Russian gas, can import from Britain, Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands. Norway, Europe’s second-largest gas supplier, is increasing production to help the European Union (EU) work toward its goal of ending dependence on Russian fossil fuels by 2027.

British energy company Centrica has signed an agreement with its Norwegian partner Equinor to increase supply for the next three winters. The UK is not dependent on Russian gas, so it can export to Europe via pipelines.

Southern Europe can receive gas from Azerbaijan via the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) to Italy and the Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP) via Turkey.

TAP and TANAP pipelines from Azerbaijan to Europe.  Graphics: Hurriyet Daily News

TAP and TANAP pipelines from Azerbaijan to Europe. Graphics: Hurriyet Daily News

The US said it could supply 15 billion cubic meters of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to the EU this year. US LNG plants are operating at full capacity, while a major LNG export port in the state of Texas has to suspend operations until the end of November, after an explosion there in June.

European LNG ports also have limited receiving capacity. Several countries are looking to increase LNG imports and storage. Germany is among the countries that want to build new LNG terminals, planning to have two completed within two years.

Poland says it can receive gas through two pipelines with Germany. A new pipeline that will allow the transport of 10 billion cubic meters of gas per year between Poland and Norway will become operational in October. The pipeline connecting Poland and Slovakia went into operation almost two weeks ago.

Spain wants to revive the MidCat project, building a third gas pipeline across the Pyrenees to France, but Paris thinks that building new LNG ports, possibly floating ports, is a faster, more economical option.

Other European options

Some countries can offset energy supplies by importing electricity from neighboring countries or increasing production from nuclear, renewable, hydro or thermal power.

However, nuclear power production is gradually decreasing in Belgium, the UK, France and Germany as the plant has to be shut down due to degradation or is being phased out. Water levels in Europe’s hydroelectric reservoirs have also dropped this summer due to low rainfall and record heat waves.

EU energy ministers agreed in July that member states should voluntarily cut gas consumption by 15% between August and March 2023, compared with the average annual consumption for the period 2017-2021. and set targets for filling gas reserves across the EU.

Germany has activated phase two of its three-phase gas emergency plan, calling on businesses and consumers to save to avoid having to allocate gas according to quotas.

Dutch Energy Minister says gas field Groningen Russia can help EU countries in the event that Russia cuts off supply completely, but increasing mining there risks causing earthquakes.

Like Tam (Theo Reuters)

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