Is this even a real proposal? Nowadays, after becoming so unreliable a supplier of gas to Europe, in fact having weaponized Russian gas deliveries, it is difficult for anyone to take this proposal seriously. Erdogan may have many significant problems; however he and Turkey are not so naieve as to do what Germany and Austria forced the European Union to do, i.e., become overdependent on Russian gas, especially given the deep energy crisis Europe is currently going through.
But, also consider this (as I explained towards the end): This proposal of sending Nord Stream gas, originating in Northern Urengoy province, above the Artic Circle, would also require a big, new pipeline laying project, running at least from perhaps near the Ukrainian border south towards the Black Sea and then onto Turkey. This would have a significant cost. And, by the time this could be finished – in perhaps five or more years – the world will have moved on. By that time, new LNG and natural gas production potential in the USA, Qatar, Australia, Algeria, Norway, Israel (sent to Egypt for liquification) and likely many others’, will have been developed and be on the global market. On this time horizon, there would be plenty of diverse sources of gas fully able to replace Russian export capacities.
I also explained the history of the South Stream Pipeline …
The title tells most of it. I explain why I think Putin is playing with gas, not oil and the EU and German vulnerabilities.
Now, German storage will not be able to be filled to the ministry’s target level of 95% by November, according to the Federal Transmission System chief, Mr. Klaus Muller – in fact, even if NS1 were still flowing at 40%.
Not only that, although Energy Minister Habeck has agreed to bring back online all the coal power plants possible, in fact Germany has a poorly thought-out over dependence on wind and it simply is not blowing much this summer. So, in actuality, we are burning more gas now to produce electricity than last year – a complete waste of gas. Also, the Rhine is low and coal barges are having difficulty delivering coal to power plants.
We discuss the excuses Putin is giving for cutting Nord Stream 1 flows now from 40% to only 20%. I asserted that they are nonsense. (Various links are below, under Read More.)
This pipeline has been in service since 2011 and there has never been a cut back of flow due to a defective or poorly maintained compressor, and now Russia is claiming a second one is in disrepair. Putin, in Tehran, last week warned he would do this and also said that Ukraine refusing to transit Russian gas through territory Russia has forcibly occupied is another reason he might cut Nord Stream 1 flows. So, this is clearly political, not technical.
This will mean, according to comments recently by Klaus Mueller – head of the German Federal Gas Transit Agency, that it will be impossible to fill German storage to the 95% level the minister has ordered — Mueller had said this was the case even at the former 40% flows of NS1.
I explained the reason Putin is playing this game with gas deliveries – because natural gas brings his regime far less revenues than the all-important business of Russian oil exports, while at the same time natural gas is much harder now for Europe to replace for some years hence from other sources – as it arrives mostly via pipelines from Russia, not by sea like most oil. So, gas is Putin’s greatest lever for now in the energy front of the economic war being waged in support of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine.
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.
TRT’s Nexus with Matthew Moore, was recorded 30 April 2021, from London.
My fellow guests were:
Patrick Boyle, Professor of Finance at Kings College — London, UK
Andrii Dligach, Co-Founder of the Centre for Economic Recovery — Kyiv, Ukraine
Maxum Bouev, Vice Rector at the New Economic School — Moscow, Russia
Myself, Thomas O’Donnell, Energy and Geopolitical Analyst, also teaching in — Berlin, Germany
My further comment: Russian oil can perfectly well be sanctioned now by Europe, and they should do it. It would deprive Putin’s regime of his main remaining source of income. Natural gas will be more difficult, but it is also possible to be sanctoned. It shoudl be done.
Note: It is indeed possible for the EU – including Germany too – to immediately cut Russian oil imports to zero and not suffer prolonged high oil prices. How? I will explain in a coming post. This is a topic I have been working on intensively the past couple weeks.
I mention some of my (and others’) rationale for saying this in my answer to the second question from Al Jazeera. NOTE: A very good reference on this is: Christof Rühl speaking last week to bne inelligence. I strongly concur with him. (this note added 15 Mar.)
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
Dr. Samuel Ramani, Researcher in International Relations at University of Oxford/ Associate follow at RUSI
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.
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.
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.
Putin’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.
On Friday, 8 October, I was interviewed, with Aura Sabadus (@ASabadus) of ICIS-London, about Nord Stream 2’s impact on European energy politics on”Strait Talk” with TRT host Ayse Suberker. We discussed the geopolitical aims of Russian and German leaders for partnering on this pipeline.
I stressed, the issue is not whether Europe is dependent on Russian gas – it is and it will remain so for the foreseeable future for up to 40% of its imports. The issue is what route this gas takes to arrive from Russia into Europe.
Consider: Russia historically exported 80% of the gas it sends to Europe using massive Soviet-era pipelines transiting Ukraine, the remainder via a Belarus-Poland-Germany pipeline. However, for 20 years Continue reading →
EU leaders will discuss the idea of creating a strategic EU gas reserve and decoupling electricity prices from gas prices, said the head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen.
– When it comes to gas, we are dependent on imports – 90 percent. gas is imported. The economies in the world are growing, so is the demand. But the supply is not correspondingly greater. We are very grateful that Norway is increasing production, but it seems that this is not the case in Russia, noted the head of the European Commission, visiting Estonia. In her opinion, the solution to the problem are investments in renewable energy sources, which should make the Community independent of imports and stabilize prices.
– In the short term, we will talk at the European Council, not only this evening (Tuesday), but in two weeks’ time at the formal Council of Europe, how to deal with storage, the strategic reserve and we will look at the overall price structure on the electricity market. Electricity prices are high due to high gas prices and we have to consider the possibility of (them) decoupling because we have much cheaper energy from renewable sources, said von der Leyen
On Tuesday evening, an informal meeting of European leaders will take place in Slovenia ahead of the EU-Western Balkans summit scheduled for Wednesday.
According to unofficial diplomatic sources in Brussels, Poland wants the European Commission to conduct investigations into the manipulation of the natural gas market by the Russian company Gazprom, which are causing the increase in gas prices in the EU. This issue is expected to appear at the EU summit on October 21-22.
Back in April, American energy market analyst Thomas O’Donnell predicted that Russia would use gas supplies to build strategic domination. The EU’s response should be to create a kind of gas ‘central bank’ in Ukrainian warehouses and use this country as a buffer, he proposed.
Ukraine is a key element of the strategic gas reserve
– Shortly after the beginning of the Maidan revolution and the Russian aggression, Ukraine, with the support of the EU, quickly made technical modifications to the export pipelines to Slovakia, Poland, Hungary and Romania in such a way as to enable a reverse. This quickly freed Kiev from having no alternative to buying Russian gas, said the expert.
– Moreover, the Kremlin cannot so easily promote favorable oligarchs – he envisaged adding that the implementation of this idea was only a matter of legislation.
– The EU could designate warehouses in Ukraine, Germany and France as the so-called strategic reserves that must always hold a certain minimum amount of gas. In the event of any aggression by Russia against Ukraine or other countries, these warehouses would be launched by a special EU-US committee or within the OECD, and Russian pipelines would be cut, the analyst suggested.
– Gas belonging to Gazprom, which stores huge amounts of gas in Germany and other EU countries, should in this case be nationalized – the expert believes.
Responding to the objection that such ideas sounded a bit fantastic, he explained that this is almost exactly how the international oil security system has operated for 50 years: in the event of a crisis, 90-day strategic oil reserves are deployed in each member state of the International Energy Agency.
My live interview (22 July 2021) on the Nord Stream 2 deal between Germany and USA. with CGTN (London office of Chinese state broadcaster. This was not edited, or I would not post it here.)
I explain the bind which Berlin had put the Biden administration in for agreeing to waive sanctions on Nord Stream 2 (NS2) in return for this bad deal. The German side was playing hardball. Berlin had made clear to Washington (well before Biden arrived in office) that the pipeline would be finished regardless of sanctions.
The German (and the Danish) side had already allowed Gazprom-owned North Stream 2 AG to continue construction in their territorial waters even when reputable insurance companies and the reputable construction-commissioning firms had abandoned the project due to the threat of US sanctions; and Berlin had made it clear to the US side that it would be completed regardless of any further sanctions. Sanctions on German firms could be circumvented by Berlin continuing to allow Russian firms to do any work that German firms were prevented from performing. And, sanctioning German firms, or NS2 AG, would cause outrage in every German political party except for the Greens, the only German party clearly opposed to the project. However, the Greens had made clear they did not think US sanctions on German firms was an appropriate measure for an ally to take.
In this live interview with Deutsche Welle (DW.de) on 12 February, I told host Christoph Kober, that this pipeline is clearly “geopolitical”.
Without Nord Stream 2, Putin can’t significantly escalate his war inside Ukraine; he’d risk his lucrative gas-export business with EU. That’s because, without Nord Stream 2, most of the gas Russia exports to EU countries currently has to arrive via pipelines transiting Ukraine that belong to its finance ministry (the remainder Russia pipes to EU states arrives via Belarus-Poland).
I pointed out that, by invading Ukraine in 2014, Putin created his own worries about his lucrative gas business with the EU. Unfortunately for Ukraine, Germany’s government also frets about this gas, fully 40% of all EU imports, having to pass through Ukraine. And so, Berlin made a “realpolitik” decision in 2015, to assist Russia’s Gazprom to build a huge new a detour pipeline around Ukraine. (I analyzed this policy, in 2017, as a “Neue Neue Ost Politik” and here – i.e., the New New Eastern Politics, a third historical iteration of German elites’ reorientations towards Moscow.)