Gas front. Will Europe and Ukraine be able to avoid an energy collapse in winter?

Russian gas blackmail has achieved the goal of easing sanctions. However, neither Europe nor Ukraine have any guarantees that blue fuel will be enough for a comfortable winter.

Canada and Germany made concessions to the Russian Federation by relaxing the sanctions regime in order to save the heating season in Europe. On July 17, Canada sent one of the repaired gas turbines to Germany, which could not be exported and serviced at the German Siemens Energy plants located in the North American country due to sanctions. Moscow explained the impossibility of obtaining a turbine by a radical reduction in gas supplies to Germany.

However, the German authorities are not sure that, having achieved a precedent of violation of sanctions, the Kremlin will give up gas blackmail.

In Europe, a plan was developed in case of a complete cessation of Russian gas supplies. It is planned to compensate for the shortage from other sources, but in the worst case scenario, the countries of the European Union will need to maintain or even strengthen restrictions on gas consumption, which in some states have already affected both household consumers and enterprises.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyi has repeatedly condemned violations of the sanctions regime. At the same time, Ukraine may also face an energy crisis in the winter – to prevent this, the authorities need to import at least 4 billion cubic meters of blue fuel, which may turn out to be a difficult task against the background of the scarcity of the resource in Western countries and its high cost.

According to forecasts, whether Ukraine and the EU will be able to pass the next winter without restrictions for the economy and population, turned to experts.

Why did the West allow the relaxation of sanctions

As of July 19, Germany’s underground gas storage facilities (SGS) were 64.44% full. This indicator, according to EU legislation, should already be 80% on October 1, and 90% on November 1.

From the middle of June, Germany had to start depleting reserves due to the heat-induced increase in electricity consumption, but most importantly – due to the reduction of the volume of supply by the “Nord Stream” to 40% of the nominal capacity (67 million cubic meters out of a possible 167 million cubic meters). At first, in Moscow, the limitation was justified by the impossibility of repairing and returning from the territory of Canada one of the gas turbines operating at the “Portova” compressor station.

Since July 10, pumping has been completely stopped due to scheduled, as noted in the Russian Federation, repair work on the gas pipeline for the period from July 11 to 21. Whether this decision was dictated only by technical needs – but even earlier, Germany had agreed to send a turbine to Canada.

According to the sources of the Russian Kommersant, Canada also, retaining the right of withdrawal, issued Siemens Energy a license to service gas equipment for Gazprom, in particular turbines, until the end of 2024.

The turbine, which caused the supply reduction, should arrive and start working at the Portova station in the Russian Federation at the beginning of August, the publication wrote. The media and the gas transport operator Opal Gastransport wrote the day before that on July 21, pumping will resume to the levels limited since mid-June. That’s what happened in the end.

In Europe, however, it is expected that after the return of the turbine, the supply will increase to full design capacity. However, officially the Russian authorities and Gazprom have not yet confirmed their readiness to do this – the state monopoly indicated that they had not received documentary confirmation of the return of the turbine and the subsequent repair of four others operating at Portova.

Moreover, on Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a reduction in supply to 33 million cubic meters. m from next week – on July 26, they plan to remove one more turbine for repairs, as a result of which only one of the five turbines at the station will work. Increase the capacity to 5 million cubic meters. m after that will be possible only with the resumption of operation of the equipment repaired by Canada, Putin said.

The Western authorities, who conceded to the Russian Federation, are nevertheless sure that the ban on the repair and return of the gas turbine was used by the aggressor country only as an excuse to reduce supplies. Experts interviewed by also agree with this opinion. Anton Zorkin, director of the “Energy” sector of the BRDO analytical center, explained that an excessive number of turbines are specially installed at gas pumping stations to replace units that are under repair.

“All units never work together, so the absence of one or even two does not affect the volume of gas pumping. [On the part of the Russian Federation] this is 100% manipulation,” Zorkin concluded. He also added that, in any case, it would be possible to satisfy European demand “several times” by increasing supply via other gas pipeline routes.

Roman Nitsovych, director of research at the DiXi Group analytical center, noted that even before the repair in July, PP-1 accounted for more than half of the gas entering the EU. Also in a limited amount, almost 40 million cubic meters. m per day, gas went to Europe through the Ukrainian HTS. At the same time, other routes were not used – the Yamal-Europe pipeline, which passes through Poland, stopped working due to the latter’s sanctions. Also, gas was not supplied to Bulgaria via “Turkish Stream” becasue some companies pay for the resource in rubles.

However, the DiXi expert agreed that references to the need to repair the turbines are manipulative. “Even the technical regulations of Gazprom itself provide for the operation of six main and two more reserve turbines at the compressor station,” Nitsovych explained.

In his opinion, the Russian Federation, with the help of blackmail, on the one hand, managed to support high prices on the market, on the other hand, to create a precedent for the relaxation of the sanctions regime, which the Kremlin “will try to use in other [economic] directions.” Nevertheless, the “political” decision to achieve the return of the turbine, adopted by Germany, is a win-win situation for it, Zorkin believes.

“[As a result] either exports will recover and reduce the risks of passing through the heating season. But if it does not recover, then the Russian Federation will not benefit from this turbine, instead, the political motivation of Gazprom’s decisions as a supplier will be conclusively proven and, perhaps, this will become evidence for lawsuits “, explained the BRDO expert.

Will there be an energy collapse in the winter if the Russian Federation does not restore supplies

At the same time, it will be more difficult for Germany, as the EU member most dependent on Russian gas, to get through the winter in the event of a complete stoppage of supplies. Such an option is not ruled out at the highest state level, as well as the introduction of emergency measures such as restrictions on the supply of gas to households.

The priority of private consumers over industrial ones in the order of gas supply was recently questioned by the Minister of Economy of Germany, Robert Habeck, who explained it by the need to soften the blow on the economy, “DW” wrote. One way or another, but the amount of payment for gas and heating in Germany should increase three times, the publication cites the assessment of one of the specialized state departments.

Since June 23, the second of three levels of an emergency situation in the energy sector has been in effect in Germany, which provides for the possibility of “unfreezing” of preserved coal-fired power plants and voluntary reduction of energy resource consumption by private companies and suppliers. Some of the latter already limit the hot water supply time. In the event of the introduction of the third level of danger, the government will be able to intervene in the market situation.

They also want to reduce gas consumption at the European level – on Wednesday, the European Commission published a corresponding plan, which recommends that member countries cut costs by 15% by next spring. In particular, due to a decrease in the heating temperature of public buildings to 19 degrees and an increase in the air conditioning temperature in the summer to 25 degrees.

On July 20, the head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, also called a probable scenario of a complete stoppage of gas supplies from the Russian Federation. But not all the countries of the European Union will be equally affected by the reduction in the export of blue fuel by the aggressor country, our interlocutors note.

As Anton Zorkin points out, states “that understood the risks of dependence on Russia” – the Baltic countries, Eastern Europe, Greece, Croatia, the Iberian countries “and even Bulgaria, which is pro-Russian on other issues, built regasification terminals or interconnectors on their territory and now provide themselves and partially neighbors with a sufficient amount of LNG” (LNG – liquefied natural gas).

The gas interconnector, built between Estonia and Finland, allowed the latter not to feel the rejection of purchases of blue fuel from the Russian Federation, DiXi expert Nitsovych adds.

However, even the countries most vulnerable to Russian gas blackmail – Germany and France – due to emergency measures to save resources for the population and industrial enterprises, construction of LNG terminals, resumption of operation of coal and nuclear power plants, will be able to, if not completely normalize the situation, at least avoid a “serious crisis with an apocalyptic tone, as predicted by some mass media in the West,” says Zorkin. A complete stoppage of supplies from the Russian Federation will not lead to such a scenario.

“Of course, during the winter, primarily in the second half, there will be periods of imbalance between supply and demand on the market, price spikes will be observed, voluntary or forced restrictions on consumption will be applied, but this will not cause significant damage to the economy,” the BRDO expert is confident.

What will happen to the heating season in Ukraine

The government set NJSC Naftogaz the task of filling 19 billion cubic meters of storage before the start of the heating season. m of gas, although the state company itself proposed to limit the level of reserves in PSG to 15 billion cubic meters. m. The latter figure would be more in line with Ukraine’s needs for the next heating season, given the population outflow and the occupation of part of the territories, noted DiXi expert Nitsovych.

However, under the condition of 15 billion cubic meters. m, PSG “Naftogaz” would have to additionally import blue fuel already during the heating season, explained the head of NAK Yuriy Vitrenko. This increases the risks of its passage – as noted by Zorkin from BRDO, if exports from the Russian Federation to Europe stop, gas from the EU will most likely not arrive in Ukraine either.

In order to accumulate 19 billion cubic m before the heating season, Ukraine needs to import another 4 billion cubic meters before its onset. m, which requires $8 billion, Naftogaz said. Now the government and NACs are working on finding funding.

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