Category Archives: Energy and Geopolitics

My Al Jazeera: Finland, the Baltics & Poland prepared well for Gazprom’s cutoff. Germany & Austria did the opposite, putting EU at risk.

ABOVE is English audio — BELOW is Arabic video. Recorded live; Al Jazeera, 21 May 2022.

I told Al Jazeera that Finland is well prepared, having worked since 2017 with Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – the Baltic states – and with Poland to connect them all together with new pipelines, also to access LNG, storage and soon, new supplies from Norway.

Finland has also rented a regasification ship, from a US firm, to receive 5 billion cubic meters per year of LNG, whch will be plenty to supply both itself and Estonia in the wake of Putin cutting off Gazprom supplies of natural gas. Finland refuses, as did Poland too, to pay Moscow in rubles and so are being punished by Putin.

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My Kosatka (Kyiv) Q&A: “Biden’s ‘gas airlift’ & Kremlin revenue. Tom O’Donnell on Russian gas embargo” [Ru/En/Ua]

Kostaka.Media (Kyiv) independent journalists continue informing the Ukranian people on energy affairs. I was interviewed from afar by YAROSLAV MARKIN, TETIANA HUZENKO. We focused on gas issues – would Putin cut Europe’s gas? What have the Americans been organizing, now with the Europeans? How would this affect Europe, Ukraine and Putin’s income?

Below are links to the article in Kostaka’s three languages (EN, RU, UA). I pasted in the English one below, in case you have access problems. This interview had to be written, not audio/video, due to wartime difficulties. [Also, here’s my previous (in-person Kyiv) interview with Kostaka.Media.]

Biden’s Gas Air Lift and the impact on Kremlin revenue: Thomas W. O’Donnell on the russian gas embargo
28 April 2022 — Author YAROSLAV MARKIN, TETIANA HUZENKO

Europe is going to cut the consumption of gas by a ⅔ in 2022, that is obviously will affect the Kremlin’s revenue. However, an embargo is highly possible as well. Both the Kremlin and the EU, in response to Russia’s new war crimes in Ukraine, could stop the gas flows.
In such a case, LNG supplies are to help weather the crisis of 2022-2023 via Biden Air Lift. The last mentioned is being set up by the US and EU diplomats and is patterned on the Berlin Air Lift of 1949. Berlin Air Lift was a system of food and coal supply during the times when the USSR had been blocking land routes.
This would be the end of Russian gas supplies to Europe forever, an international expert and senior energy and geopolitics analyst at GlobalBarrel.com, Dr Thomas W. O’Donnell believes.
He told Kosatka.Media how quickly Europe would be able to abandon Russian gas, what alternative supply routes could be used, and whether Hungary and Austria, obsessed with Russian gas, could prevent this.

The analogue of Putin’s army in the energy sector
How much gas does Europe import from Russia per year? Who are the major consumers?

There are two different market processes whereby Russian gas is purchased by Europe. If we speak about only gas delivered by pipeline, these are:
І. Via long-term contracts, agreements which are for natural gas to be delivered for several years, perhaps from five to as much as 20 years.

ІІ. Via the “spot” market. These are short-term contracts for gas to be delivered the following month. It is also possible to buy gas day-by-day, where traders agree to a price for gas delivered the next day. Here, gas traders consult the future’s market, which has set the price for gas delivered the next day, or the next month, or some number of months in the future.

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Le dije a Radio Clarín Buenos Aires: Putin amenaza con cortarle el gas a la UE/Alemania, pero no tiene otra fuente de dinero. Si lo hace, Biden y la UE organizarán un “Gas-Lift” … [Spanish]

Lo sentimos, la calidad de la comunicación celular desde Alemania no es buena. Por lo tanto, he escrito mi respuesta larga a la primera pregunta a continuación. Las otras preguntas también están abajo. Muchas gracias a los periodistas de Radio Clarín y La Nacion en Argentina (y en París).

Re: Urgente Pedido de Entrevista Periodística – Corresponsales Clarín y La Nación – Argentina

De Maria E… … Fri, Apr 29, 11:50 PM

Dr. O ´Donnell, … Estas son las preguntas para la entrevista del domingo:

1¿Alemania tiene otra posibilidad que no sea seguir comprando el gas ruso? ¿Cuáles serían sus otras opciones?

Repuesta: Antes que nada, muchas gracias por esta oportunidad de hablar con su audiencia argentina.

Pues, debo señalar que hay dos problemas diferentes: el suministro de petróleo ruso a Alemania y Europa y el suministro de gas ruso a Alemania y Europa. Me preguntas por el gas. El gas es mucho más difícil para Europa y para Alemania que el petróleo Hay dos casos: una reducción gradual o parcial de gas o un corte inmediato.

Un corte gradual se puede manejar bastante bien. Ahora Putin está tratando de dividir y conquistar Europa cortando el suministro de gas a Polonia y Bulgaria.

Un recorte inmediato, ya sea por parte de Putin o debido a las sanciones de la UE, crearía una gran crisis energética en Europa. Sin embargo, es importante entender que, al final, Putin está en una posición mucho más débil.

Si Putin corta todos los suministros de gas a Europa, ahora no hay suficiente gas en el mercado mundial para compensar. Pero Occidente, y especialmente EE. UU., la administración Biden, se ha estado preparando para esto al menos dos meses antes de que Putin invadiera Ucrania, incluso antes de que Europa creyera las advertencias de EE. UU. de que Putin atacaría Ucrania.

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My Al Jazeera: Yes, the EU can embargo Russian oil now: OPEC’s role, Germany’s Druzhba refineries OK, SPRs, weak demand. [Arabic & English]

Above: ENGLISH AUDIO }} Below: ARABIC VIDEO

Can the EU embargo Russian oil now? I explain yes, it can, and how. Also what OPEC will do. My Live Al Jazeera interview on 12.03.22 (ca. 00:20 CET, 18:20 EST). Here are the main points coved, quickly, from memory.

Afer an initial price spike from an EU embargo, the IEA’s SPR – strategic pertroleum reserves – can make up any shortall of oil for some weeks or so or months while OPEC and the USA increase production.

Especially the UAE and most especially Saudi Arabia have significant excess capacity, at least 2 million barrel/day (mbd) they can add to the market. Oil is fungable, there is one global market, so in principle the shock of an embargo could be ended rather quickly.

Regarding Germany: it is the main EU Member state now opposed to an immediate Russian oil embargo. However, I am confident it is being overly cautious and that Germany can do this now without significant disruptions.

In particular, Germany worries about the fact that several refineries in Germany and Central Europe are located inland, and supplied by the Druzhba Pipeline bringing about 700,000 barrels per day of Urals grade oil (i.e., hevier, sulferous oil) as their feedstock. So, the German government is claiming it would be very difficult to supply these refineries. However, this is not such a problem.

Consider that two German refineries, in the South of Germany, Bavaria for example; these two refineries are on a second pipeline, the Transalpine pipeline. This comes from the port of Trieste Italy. So these two refineries are fine. In an embargo of Russian Druzhba Pipeline oil they can be supplied from Trieste.

However, the refinery the German leaders most worry about is called Svedt, and it is located in Germany near the Polish border, also on the Druzhba pipeline [i.e., PCK Oil Refinery, at Schwedt, Oder River, Brandenburg State, Germany]. However, I can make some immediate points about this refinery.

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My Al Jazeera: Global oil price expectations due to Russia’s war on Ukraine [Arabic & English]

Here’s: i) English audio ii) Arabic video iii) my English blog points

My Al Jazeera, Arabic 07 March 2022 live:The 2022 Global Oil Crisis of Russia’s Ukraine war has begun.

Al Jazeera asked me, about the Russian Foreign minister’s declaration that oil prices could go to $300/barrel if the West sanctions its oil. [Note: this interview was a week ago; but still relevant.]

I said: Finally the Russian minister has said something true. However, I explained that USA sanctions – as the EU also wanted – initially (Note: at the time of this interview, President Biden had not yet banned USA imports of Russian oil) had included exemptions from the larger SWIFT sanctions on Russian bank transactions specifically allowing continued payments for Russian oil and gas exports. And, last week, Putin, for his part, specifically also said he would not cut off Russian oil and gas deliveries to the West. So, why do we suddenly have the beginnings of a crisis of undersupply of Russian oil to the “”‘Global Barrel’ (dot com)”” oil market? It turned out that global-oil market actors themselves – the western banks that finance purchases, the spot market traders who make daily deals and oil-tanker owners who have to send their tankers to Russian ports to pick up oil – have broadly and voluntarily backed off from buying Russian oil. There are various reasons – there is over-compliance to sanctions, being super careful not to inadvertently violate the complex sanctions, reduce risk of sudden supply disruption from the Russian side, and also the fact that no tanker will pick up oil in a war zone or nearby without appropriate insurance, etc. There are also reputational issues of being seen by civil society as engaging in war profiteering if an entity purchases what is now deeply discounted Russian crude. I also explained that the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) system of the OECD states, which should hold at minimum 90-days of the total imports of any OECD state’s oil imports, will soften the shortage of oil should the purchase of Russian oil be sanctioned by the USA and/or EU, or if Putin and Lavrov decide to cut off Russia’s oil supply to Europe.

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EU Gas Crisis: German elites chose Putin’s pipeline over Ukraine “risk” | My DW ‘Inside Europe’ interview (NPR syndicated)

Piece image
My thanks to Deutsche Welle’s (DW, German public broadcaster) Kate Laycock for this interview (and intrepid producer Helen). Their website link is below for this 25.02.22 podcast as war began

IE: Inside Europe, 2/25/2022 From: DW – Deutsche Welle Series: Inside Europe: News and Current Affairs ~ Weekly from DW

This week on the show: Russia-Ukraine war. UK sanctions on Russia. Russia gas. The mood in Russia. How ordinary people are struggling to get by…

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My CGTN TV: The growing EU v Russia asymmetry in energy trade. EU-USA nix oil/gas sanctions over Ukraine, fearing supply crisis.

I had a good live talk with CGTN TV hosts on my analysis of a growing “asymmetry” in energy relations between the EU and Russia.

Especially in natural gas, the EU is increasingly dependent on Russian supplies while Russia is decreasingly dependent on its EU market.

Under Putin, Russia and Gazprom have constantly worked not only to:

  1. Build new pipelines to Europe (principally via the Baltic Sea-to-Germany) so as to detour its exports around Ukraine. This has enabled Putin to committ his present massive aggression there without risking delivery of Gazprom gas to its European markets west of Ukraine. However it has also worked to
  2. Diversify its market for natural gas away from Europe. This includes 10-15-years of projects to build new major pipelines to China and Eurasia and plans for more still (e.g., Power of Siberia 2 pipeline), and to build large-scale LNG export terminals, owned mainly by Russia’s Novatek firm, in its Arctic regions and on Sakhalin Island in the far east. This gas is relatively sanctions-proofed in that it can be delivered by ship to any world market, though it mainly goes to Asia where LNG prices are generally highest.

I explain that this growing asymmetry is precisely why the USA-and-EU have NOT included energy sanctions in their package retaliating for Putin’s present war on Ukraine.

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My TRT/Istanbul: Biden names Qatar a “major non-NATO ally,” seeks LNG for EU. Energy scenarios of a Russian war vs. Ukraine.

Strait Talk with host Aisha-Aura Sbadus @suberker in Istanbul. My co-panelist was Tom Marzec-Manser @tmarzecmanser Head of Gas Analytics at @ICISOfficial

We discussed scenarios for how the EU energy crisis might go in a new Russian war against Ukraine, and the significance of USA President Biden designating Qatar as a “major non-NATO ally.”

In particular, we discussed how much could Qatari LNG be made available and what its impact would be alongside the massive US LNG deliveries so far this year.

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EU Energy Crisis: Germany & EU long ignored US warnings that Putin can weaponize gas, attack Ukraine – On David Foster’s Roundtable, London

26.01.2022. Experts Wahid Machram, market analyst in Dubai; Samuel Ramadi at Oxford University, UK. and TRT Roundtable host David Foster in London made important points. Here’s a key assessment I made.:

There is a new and growing asymmetry between the European Union and Russia in energy supplies – one increasingly favoring Moscow.

Europe has opened itself to energy blackmail. The present winter 2021-22 gas shortage and skyrocketing prices are only one part. There is also the real possibility of Putin cutting off the pipeline gas he is still supplying in the event that Europe, esp. Germany, opposes any Russian invasion of Ukraine.

About the new EU-Russia growing energy asymmetry:

  • On the demand side, Germany and Europe generally increasingly need natural gas, and are growing more dependent on Russian supplies, contrary to the promises of rapid progress to a carbon-free future of the German Green Party and others. The EU, and especially Berlin, have adopted ideologically-determind, technologically unrealistic and expensive energy-transition policies, with little concern for energy-supply security. This has made Europe increasingly dependent on Russian gas imports – 40% at present of total gas imports,
  • Meanwhile, on the supply side, Russia, the major European supplier, is increasingly finding ways to diversify its gas customer base away from Europe, to the Far East, especially to China, and to Eurasia generally. It also has new outlets for its vast Arctic gas resources by converting it to LNG that can go by ship to anywhere in the world.
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EU Commission openness to nuclear as green, betrays falling confidence in the German 100%-renewables model [English & Polish]

Dr. Thomas W. O’Donnell, Berlin 27.01.22 (Polish original 22.09.22)

Printed in Polish by Banker.pl as Komisja Europejska może uznać energetykę jądrową za “zieloną” 2021-09-22, from a written interview with Artur Chierskiwsky (PAP, Brussels) Here’s the unpublished English.-Tom O’D. [Edit:: Headline word “betrays” was initially miswritten “belays”].

Reportedly, the EU Commission plans to soon include nuclear power in its green finance taxonomy, finally making it eligible for favorable financing and carbon credits on a par with wind and solar.[1]

This could be spun two ways: as a victory for science over populist capture of climate policies, or as a tipping point in Brussels angst at the growing complexities and costs of the “100% renewables and no nuclear” model.

In reality, it’s some and some.

On the one hand, in March, the Commission received reports solicited from the Joint Research Centre (JRC), its scientific expert arm, finding that nuclear waste is “manageable”, posing no “significant” harm to the environment, and that nuclear energy has been demonstrated to be eminently safe.[2]

However, these assessments are not surprising. Had the Commission requested these years ago, they undoubtedly would have concluded similarly. Nuclear, public-health, risk-assessment and other expert bodies have been saying these things for years (full disclosure: my PhD is in experimental nuclear physics [3]).  

The question then is, why is this scientific consensus only now becoming actionable for the Commission?

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Plan C: Gazprom’s failures on Nord Stream 2 | My talk, Ukrainian Energy Security Dialogue [English & Ukrainian]

ENGLISH – Dr. Tom O’Donnell spoke from Berlin (Українське відео розміщене нижче)
Українська мова: з Берліна говорив доктор Томас О’Доннел

Here is my talk [English & Ukrainian videos] for the Ukraine Energy Security Dialogue of 01.12.21, via Zoom, organized by Kyiv’s Dixie Group. Program & Speakers are below.

I outlined failures of the legal and political models Russia’s Gazprom has embraced to eventually bring the Nord Stream 2 pipeline into operation under the anti-monopoly provisions of the EU’s Third Energy Package law..

Critical observers have understandably interpreted the public optimism and “gas-Godfather”-like posturing of Kremlin and Gazprom officials as evidence of self-confidence, even arrogance. In contrast, here I outlined what actually amounts to a history of repeated failures of Nord Stream 2 AG strategies.

I termed its first two failed strategies as “Plan A” and “Plan B,” and the current one as “Plan C.”

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My Kyiv interview: PUTIN WAS BLUFFING HE COULD “SAVE” EUROPE: Dr. Tom O’Donnell on Nord Stream 2, hydrogen & nuclear energy [Kosatka.Media]

Dr. Thomas W. O’Donnell, at 1st Ukraine Gas Investment Congress, Kyiv. 21.10.21.[Kosatka Media]

Here’s my extended interview in Kyiv with two great Kosatka.Media journalists [Read in UA, RU]

18 NOVEMBER 2021 — AUTHOR YAROSLAV MARKIN, TETIANA HUZENKO In 2021, the energy sector of Ukraine faced myriad threats related to the completion of Nord Stream 2, increasing gas prices and coal shortage just before the heating season. At the same time, green trends require decarbonizing the industry and developing the hydrogen direction.

Kosatka.Media discussed what direction is better for Ukraine, whether it should wait for the protection against Nord Stream 2, and where global green trends could take us, with Dr. Thomas W. O’Donnell, international expert and senior energy and geopolitics analyst at GlobalBarrel.com, who participated in the Ukraine Gas Investment Congress held in late October in Kyiv.

  • One of the key messages at the congress is that whatever the ‘green’ trends are, gas is a transition fuel and we will use it for a long time. Are there any other case scenarios? How should Ukraine act in this situation?

In the long run, we want to have a world that’s not dependent on hydrocarbons. The worst hydrocarbon is lignite and brown coal. And that’s what people s\should concentrate on eliminating. Natural gas in fact is a great way to eliminate coal.

It’s actually an improvement for Ukraine, not only because of global warming, because of CO2, but also for the health of the people since natural gas does not produce environmental pollution. So, increasing the use of natural gas (or also nuclear energy) in a country like Ukraine is to the benefit of the environment and to the people’s health.

However, Ukraine is not a typical European country, it is a country that unfortunately is at war. In such a situation, it has found an intelligent way to access natural gas, which is virtual reverse flow.

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There’s no 2021-22 Nord Stream 2 option: Only way to avert EU gas crisis & for Gazprom not to waste its huge domestic-production-surge investment … is for Moscow to take Kyiv’s offer of 50% cut in transit fees, flooding the EU with gas from 7 November.

voice-of-europe-fire-novy-urongoy-gas-plant-gazprom-5augustPutin’s recent gas-Godfather-like statements that Nord Stream 2 could alleviate  the current European natural gas price and supply crisis is an obvious attempt to pressure the EU to rush Nord Stream 2 approval in ways violating the EU’s own rule of law.
 
As a Polish expert wrote in 2019,: “The amendment to the [European Union’s] gas directive explicitly confirms that EU law applies in the case of Nord Stream 2 (that is, to the section running through German territorial sea), including the rules on unbundling, third-party access, independent operators et al.: (Agata Łoskot-Strachota, “The gas directive revision: EU law poses problems for Nord Stream 2,” OSW, Warsaw, 21.02.2-19.).
 
However, Putin’s hubris should be taken with a grain of salt. In reality, his options in this regard are subject to current technical-economic constraints of the Russia gas sector, as my research had indicated in recent weeks.
 
Russian domestic storage was announced to be at 97% full mid-last-week due to its continuing all-out Gazprom filling campaign, reportedly at the high rate of about 300 million cubic meters/day (mcm/d). The plan had been to finish by 1 November.. Thereafter, this maxed-out production has to immediately be choked off or be sent somewhere else – and indeed there is only one option; but it is not Nord Stream 2…
 
One caveat: a recently announced 7 November Gazprom export start date did not made sense. Where would the maxed out production flows go from 1 to 7 November?  However, an article yesterday by Bloomburg [possible paywall] clarifies “Gazprom said Wednesday that the Russian re-injection campaign would be a week longer than the original Nov. 1 conclusion.”  This is quite plausible – it is simply taking an extra six days to top off Russian domestic storage. 
 
So to reiterate points I have stressed over the past few weeks (e.g., at Naftogaz’ Ukraine Gas investment Congress closing panel in Kyiv last Thursday-I’ll put a video of this here soon- and in various interviews):
 
First, while Putin has relished playing the gas-mafia Godfather (e.g., at the St Petersburg gas conference two weeks ago), asserting that, if  Nord Stream 2 is rapidly approved, Gazprom exports could save Europe this winter, he has been merely posturing as the strongman decider. He wanted to appear to be craftily withholding extra, non-contracted gas supplies needed to fill  the company’s storage facilities in Germany and throughout the EU, all still now at worryingly low levels long after the traditional filling season ended at the start of October.
 

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My Kongres590/Warsaw talk: “Building a Joint Three-Seas-Initiative Nuclear Energy R&D-and-Training Center” [Polish & English]

Note: The Polish Interpreter’s voice dominates; however with headphones I could follow the English. Apologies, there’s no separate English audio.

“Cooperation in energy transformation and trade to increase the economic strength of the Three Seas Region …”

Kongres590 – Warsaw – 14 October 2021

  • Moderator: prof. dr. hab. Zbigniew Krysiak, Chairman of the Program Council of the Institute of Schuman Thought
    Panellists:
  • Dr. Thomas W. O’Donnell, (PhD Nuclear Physics; Lecturer in Berlin & Energy & Geopolitical Analyst),
  • Julius Zellah, (President of the Light for Africa Online Foundation)
  • Paweł Kotowski, (Deputy Director of the Department of Economic Cooperation, Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
  • Jarosław Malczewski, (President of the Polish Dairy Group),
  • Dr. Krzysztof Malczewski, (President of the B-2M Company)

Key points of my talk:

1. Poland has no previous experience in nuclear energy; and this is a difficult problem that needs to be tackled starting now. Also, any institute needs a sufficient scale to guarantee both high standards and employment security to those trained for industry, academia, safety, and planning.  It is for this reason that nuclear training in Poland’ should be done jointly, together with all 12 of the Three Seas Initiative members (i.e., the eastern EU member states, and this may soon include also Ukraine – many of which countries already have established nuclear programs). And, as part of the Three Seas Initiative, this means also in conjunction with the USA, in particular its Department of Energy with a vast network of nationl laboratories and obviously decades of nuclear experience to draw on. Continue reading

My Al Jazeera Live: EU Gas Crisis 2021: Too many windmills w/o wind, a cold winter & hot summer drained EU & Russian storage. While Putin fills his, EU goes back to coal & prices soar. [Arabic & English]

ENGLISH AUDIO: At 0:30 are the interpreter’s questions & my answers.

Video In Arabic – Audio above has English interpreter’s and my voice in English.