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

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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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Kyiv’s Wall of Remembrance to 4,000 Ukrainian soldiers already killed vs. Russian aggression | Thoughts on my video at St Michaels Monastery

This is a simple post. I wanted to share my video of the Wall of Remembrance in Kyiv fo;r 4,000 Ukrainian soldiers killed fighting Russian aggression since 2014. I estimated there were photos of about 3,100 of these soldiers on the wall. I made the video 26 October 2021; by then, the photos went to July 2020.

I was in Kyiv for a congress, and the video was spontaneous, intended for family back in Berlin and the States.

This wall is around the St. Michaels Monastery. I hadn’t come up this path to St. Michaels and on into central Kyiv before. So, as I was making this video, I was discovering the soldiers’ memorial for the first time. On other visits,, I’d taken the cable car up, and passed by the Maidan martyrs’ memorial wall – which is at the end of this video. This time I had walked some kilometers, at sunset, from my hotel across from the Rada and the Presidential Palace, which are below, at the level of the Dnieper River.

Why am I posting this video now, for the public?

One reason is to put human faces on the geopolitics I analyze in this blog and in my work.

More particularly, I was reading about the classified briefings on Capital Hill last week for senators and representatives by US Secretary of Defense Austin and Secretary of State Blinken. They reportedly outlined various scenarios they deem likely for what sort of military aggression Putin is planning.

The numbers of Ukrainian casualties they reportedly projected – mostly civilians – number in the many thousands depending on the particular invasion scenario Moscow chooses (see the NYT). Of course, there are disagreements between European and USA officials as to which scenario Putin will choose; but that is irrelevant as to the essential character of what Putin’s Russian Federation is threatening: an offensive, an invasion, a war of aggression. Under any of the scenarios, many more Ukrainians will die than have died since 2014, … and I was thinking that their faces will look exactly like the faces here in my video.

So here is a medium-to-long-term scenario:

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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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Our TRT TV: Will Annalena Baerbock, Germany’s new Green Foreign Minister, be able/permitted to succeed?

David Foster hosts TRTRoundtable 15.12.21

Here’s our TRT Roundtable on Annelene Baerbock as new German Green Foreign Minister. The questions included, will/can she:

  • Prioritize human rights in China and Russia over German trade?
  • Stand strong vs Putin’s Ukraine-invasion threats?
  • Insist Chancellor Scholz (SPD) kills Nord Stream2?

Can the new German Foreign Minister, Annalena Baerbock, co-chair of the Green Party, possibly make any difference in German foreign policy under the strong hand of the new SPD Chancellor, Olaf Scholz?

I appeared on David Foster’s “TRT World” show, produced in London, to discuss Germany’s first woman foreign minister, whose Green Party is now governing with the Social Democrats (SPD) and liberal Free Democrats (FDP).

Ms. Baerbock, the first woman foreign minister in German history, has a steep hurdle to overcome to put any imprint on German foreign policy. For example, the chair of Scholz’ party, said this week that he sees Putin’s 100,000 troops on Ukraine’s borders as, rather incredibly, a case of “mutual threats,” quite different from Minister Baerbock’s public views before assuming this office.

As Nato, EU and USA relations vis-a-vis Russia and China heat up, Minister Baerbock comes with no previous foreign affairs experience, and SPD Chancellor Scholz is expected to dominate foreign policy, just as Angela Merkel’s office did previously. [See footnote]

I discussed her much-asserted intent to shift to a “values-centered” foreign policy, to criticizing Russian and Chinese human rights violations, which were not emphasized by the “pragmatic” and “interest-based” foreign polity of Angela Merkel.

I also discussed her avowed “post-pacifist” political ideology – e.g., ​in favor of ​speaking more strongly​ than most Greens have traditionally done​ ​in favor of​ NATO security​ (and perhaps expansion?)​ in Eastern and Central Europe​, and​ than either the CDU and especially the SPD generally would, and ​also ​for a “European Army” to enhance EU defense capacities. However, what she exactly means by this is not ​so ​clear, and till now this stance has tended to be a distinction without any great practical difference to the policies of either the former CEU or the new SPD chancellor.

For example, as I pointed out, last week she indeed spoke clearly in opposition to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline as a threat to Ukrainian security, and further said that it cannot be certified as it now stands, under EU law.. However, while she was in opposition, she consistently demanded the project be abandoned. Now, as foreign minister, she has only thus far stating what is known: that the pipeline is not possible to certify legally and bring into operation as its present ownership structure would violate the anti-monopoly provisions of European law (and, therefore, too German law), known as the “Third Energy Package.”

However, she has said nothing really new here. Gazprom and its Nord Stream 2 AG subsidiary are now increasingly being seen to be on legal thin ice (e.g., I gave a historical overview of this Gazprom difficulty in my 05.12.2021 Kyiv talk video: Plan C: Gazprom’s failures on Nord Stream 2 and in my written explanation accompanying it).

The question is, will she demand of Scholz that the pipeline be abandoned, especially not that Putin is openly threatening to commits new aggression against Ukraine? And, the Americans will demand it is he takes any such step, based on their reading of the “deal” they made with Mrs. Merkel’s government that the pipeline must not be used as an energy weapon and that an invasion of Ukraine would especially require the project being killed.

Should she do so, she has a very steep climb ahead in her governing coalition, especially coming up against the firm support for the project within Scholz’ SPD..

My fellow expert panelists included

NOTA BENE: A really very informative background deep dive on the decline of the German Foreign office under Merkel, who gradually took over all important foreign issues herself, by Politico’s Germany/Austria reporter is: “Who will be Germany’s next foreign minister? Nobody cares. During her 16 years in power, German Chancellor Angela Merkel seized full control over international affairs.” BY MATTHEW KARNITSCHNIG September 24, 2021. Here is the link.

My DW “Inside Europe” Nord Stream 2 interview. Russian-German-USA-Ukrainian energy geopolitics. Radio & podcast

My DW Inside Europe, Interview with Kate Laycock on legally stalled Nord Stream 2, the EU’s winter energy crisis, Russia’s aims versus Ukraine, Germany’s rationale for partnering with Russia, and etc. – Syndicated in North America on NPR, etc. – on 18.11.21.
To avoid Russian gas transiting Ukraine, Belarus & Poland, huge detour-pipelines Nord Stream & Nord Stream 2 were built by Russia in partnership with the German government. These run from Russia, near St. Petersburg, via the Baltic Sea directly to Germany

The continued refusal of the recently arrived German coalition government, in the face of clear threats by Putin to again invade Ukraine, to clearly abandon this huge pipeline project is upsetting to many NATO partners and Ukraine. In particular, the new German Foreign Minister, Annalena Baerbock, co-leader of the Green Party, had constantly called for the immediate abandonment of this project while her party was in the opposition during the Angela-Merkel-led coalition government. However, in government, she has merely repeated the well-known fact that this pipeline must meet EU law requirements, and so far this is not possible. Moreover, even more disappointing to many NATO allies, the new government, led by the Social Democrat Olaf Scholtz, has also blocked NATO from sending various “offensive” weapons to Ukraine to defend itself.

This audio file is an eight-minute DW-edited version of a much longer interview we taped, so of course these are not my complete statements on these issues. Hopefully these brief answers do shed light on the perceived national interests of German leaders across what are now three separate governments and 18+ years of partnering with Moscow on these huge Ukraine-detour pipelines: Nord Stream and Nord Stream 2.

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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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I’m quoted-at-length: EXPLAINER: Europe lacks natural gas. Is it Russia’s fault? [Associated Press] Putin acts like the EU’s “Gas Godfather” during a shortage crisis.

AP – The Lakhta Centre tower under construction, the headquarters of Russian gas monopoly Gazprom, is silhouetted against the sunset in St. Petersburg, Russia, on April 15, 2018.

This AP article today quotes me (about half way in, marked in red) on Nord Stream 2, on Putin acting like the EU’s “gas godfather,” and on the implications for the EU gas crisis. It’s in numerous USA local papers. A nice job by AP’s  DAVID McHUGH (Frankfurt) and VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV (Moscow).

FRANKFURT, Germany — Europe is short of natural gas — dangerously short. A cold winter could mean a severe crunch, and utility bills are headed higher, burdening ordinary people and weighing on the economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has promised to help fill European gas storages as energy prices soar — but supply shortages and political tensions have continued to rattle energy markets, keeping prices high. That’s pinched businesses and forced them to pass along costs to customers already facing higher bills at home.

With Europe dependent on imported gas and Russia supplying 40% or more of those imports, Putin has leverage. He’s said the new pipeline already is filled with gas and could help increase supplies “the day after” it’s approved.

Here are important factors behind the gas crisis:

HOW DID EUROPE GET INTO THIS MESS?

Multiple reasons. One was a cold winter that drained gas reserves, which are used to generate electrical power and typically replenished in summer. That didn’t happen this year.

Hot weather drained more gas than usual through demand for air conditioning. Less wind meant less renewable electricity, leading generators to reach for gas fuel. Limited supplies of liquid natural gas, an expensive option that can be delivered by ship instead of pipeline, were snapped up by customers in Asia.

On top of that, Europe for years has pushed for day-to-day spot pricing, instead of long-term contracts. Russian-controlled gas giant Gazprom has fulfilled those long-term contracts but hasn’t pumped additional gas beyond that. Putin says customers who have those contracts pay much less for gas than other buyers.

Prices were seven times higher in October than they were at the beginning of the year and have eased to about four times higher lately.

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Kyiv Video: I moderated the EU-Ukraine debate: “Thinking Beyond Tomorrow–Energy Transition” – Ukraine Gas Investment Congress, 22.10.21

Ukraine-EU Debate: Energy Transition – Beyond Tomorrow

I moderated this very lively & frank panel at the Ukraine Gas Investment Congress (UGIC) in Kyiv on 22 October 2021. [The high-level event participants are listed below].

I thoroughly enjoyed this lively debate, and learned a good deal. It’s an hour long; but I think it is well worth a watch, especially as the debate gets going.

PANEL PARTICIPANTS

* Torsten Wöllert, Minister Counsellor; Energy, EU Delegation to Ukraine

* Olga Bielkova , Director on Government & International Affairs Gas Transmission System Operator (GTSOU)

* Oleksiy Ryabchyn (Rye ab chen), Advisor to the Chairman of the Board, Naftogaz of Ukraine

* Sergiy Nahorniak, (Nach hor niak) MP and Chairman of the Subcommittee on Energy Conservation and Energy Efficiency Verkhovna (Ver kavna) Rada Committee on Energy and Housing and Communal Services

* Steve Freeman, Head of Energy Transition, Digital and Integration Schlumberger

* Dr. James Watson , Secretary General, Eurogas

* Moderator: Dr. Thomas O’Donnell, Hertie School of Governance, Berlin; and Energy and International Affairs Analyst

It was a respectful but clearly exasperating confrontation, a between contradictory imperatives pitting:


a) Ukraine’s necessity to boost its domestic natural gas production in the interests of its national security and independence, and the people’s social-economic needs,

against

b) The demands from Brussels and especially from highly developed Western-EU Member States insisting that Ukraine abandon all fossil fuels (including gas) ASAP,

Green-Deal-inspired insistence by Brussels for rapid gas-abandonment imposes the difficulty or outright banning of financing for increasing Ukraine’s domestic gas production. Many EU-zone financial institutions cannot any longer finance “upstream” projects (E&P: exploration and production), including the World Bank, whose representative pointed out earlier at the Congress that his institution is now outright banned from making such investments.

Nevertheless, no one on my panel, or throughout the Congress disagreed that, for the foreseeable future, investments in new upstream natural gas exploration and production are precisely what Ukraine urgently needs. The constant threats from Moscow, of Putin, his energy ministry and Gazprom to end transit of Russian gas to the EU via Ukraine would make the present “virtual reverse flow: method by which Ukraine obtains much of its natural gas, so vital for electricity generation but especially for citizens winter heating, will become impossible.

This is whey how to raise financing for domestic new gas E&P was precisely the urgent topic of this Congress organized by Naftogaz, the state natural gas company.

What is Ukraine to do? Is this fair?

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UPDATE: Gazprom begins “tepid” filling of EU gas storage. Transparency lacking from EU’s main supplier during crisis.

Este informe y mi entrevista están en español. Euronews 8.11.21

First: My Euronews 8 November interview is also in Hungarian  – Italian – Spanish (posted here) and English (yesterday’s post)

1. Factual Update:

The interview was on Monday with no evidence of Gazprom filling EU storage on the date promised. Today, Wednesday, Gazprom has begun filling at least two of five promised EU storage sites.

To the best of my knowledge, from various sources who follow the industry and/or politics of this closely:

  • Gazprom began using its recently unused Yamal pipeline, flowing 30mcm/day (million cubic meters per day) to the Mallnow, Germany pumping station. This Russia-Belarus-Poland-Germany. pipeline, has a total capacity of  85 mcm/day (31 bcm/year – billion cubic meters per year).
  • Gazprom also applied to use its previously booked-and-paid-for but also recently unused capacity across Ukraine under the December 2019 transit contract with Naftogaz of 40 bcm/year (109.3 mcm/day). Of this, :Velke Kapusany, Slovakia station is receiving 92mcm/day, with SE Poland and Moldova receiving 18 mcm/day.
  • Gazprom is flowing via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline (directly from Russia into Germany via the Baltic Sea) 165mcm/day.  This would be 60 bcm/year if continuous with no annual maintenance downtime, but its annual nameplate capacity is 55 bcm).
  • I recommended the article “Gazprom makes slow start on boosting gas supplies to Europe: Markets react tepidly as volumes remain too low to stave off supply fears,” by Max Seddon in Moscow, David Sheppard in London, and Roman Olearchyk in Kyiv  (paywall, perhaps a few articles free/month)
2. My Analytical Points:
  • This is well below the total flow Gazprom was routinely sending in recent years via Yamal (31 bcm) plus via Ukrainian pipes (89.6 bcm in 2019, and 55.8+ bcm in 2020)
  • Thus, these are not yet “surge” supplies; it is not yet a concerted effort to urgently replenish the EU’s worryingly low gas storage levels before winter gets colder and in the likely event winter winds will drop significantly as they did last year, requiring still-more gas, for electrical generation. (This combination ran the then-nearly full EU and Ukrainian storages to very low levels, which have still not been replenished sufficiently for this winter.).
  • Such drama and uncertainty from Europe’s main energy supplier when it needs reliability and transparency is heghly problematic (though, of course, Europe and especially Berlin have been amply warned about this high degree of dependence on Gazprom)..
  • Oh, and note that the USA is evidently quite concerned about the Russian troop buildup on Ukraine’s border. However, the EU seems at a complete loss, absolutely absent from joining with the Biden Administration in dissuading Mr. Putin from some new aggression. 
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My Euronews TV: Putin said Gazprom’s would fill its critically low EU gas storage from 8 Nov. It isn’t. — Instead he is massing troops on Ukraine’s border.

My interview with Euronews of 08.11.21, on Gazprom & Putin’s refusal to begin filling gas storage in the EU. This is the only way to diminish the possibility of a gas crisis, of serious heating and electricity shortages should we have another cold and windless winter.

Putin, as always, is “the decider.”

I said: No one knows his game. Will he send his ample gas supplies to Europe, now that Russian storage is filled as of 7 Nov.?

This is a serious issue of the reliability and transparency of Gazprom and Putin’s Russia – the supplier of about 40% of Europe’s imported gas,

The person who invaded Ukraine in 2014 now refuses to send gas across Ukraine. He now has the gas available it and Ukraine is even offering him a 50% discount on transit fees. This could significantly help to alleviate Europe’s looming winter energy crisis.

However, instead, Putin has now put large numbers of Russian troops on Ukraine’s borders, de facto threatening the country in recent weeks. The Biden administration is alarmed. It sent CIA director Burns to speak directly to Putin in Moscow – a very unusual event. See CNN here.

This is a serious energy and security situation for Europe and for Ukraine. Shortfalls of winter gas in storage, and also coal in Ukrainian storage is a threat to citizens’ heat and electricity supplies.

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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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