Skip to content

How Europe hopes to do without Russian gas

Will the gas be cut off between Russia and Europe? In this lying poker game, Brussels tries to find a solution to Russian blackmail. The European Commission has outlined an action plan to do without Russian gas.

Spring is here in Europe. In a stifling energy context, rising temperatures are giving Europeans some breathing space. At the end of March, natural gas reserves do not exceed 25% of their capacity, but the mild weather is reducing overall consumption. Better still, for the past few days, Europe has generally been receiving more gas than it consumes, which therefore makes it possible to relaunch (timidly) storage.

The April 2021 frost should remind us that the weather is unpredictable, but the current good weather should nevertheless make it possible to face a possible new climatic hazard serenely, on the gas side. In reality, the States have their eyes mainly on next winter with a time trial launched to fill the natural gas tanks.

Will there be Russian gas in European pipes? All the players, starting with the boss of TotalEnergies, recognize that it is not possible to do without it. But diplomatic tensions sometimes override economic common sense. On Wednesday, Vladimir Putin urged European countries to pay Gazprom in rubles to help the Russian currency. Such a request is akin to “a breach of contract”, replied Berlin.

European task force

To compensate for a possible cut in supplies, the European Commission is struggling to find alternative solutions. Brussels presented, on Wednesday, its options for dealing with a disaster scenario and above all projecting itself into a more distant future without Russian gas.

“Europe must take swift action to secure energy supplies for next winter and ease the pressure on our citizens and businesses from high energy bills,” pledged Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson. .

First rule: oblige Member States to fill 80% of gas storage capacities on 1 November and even 90% for the next few years. This measure already exists in France but not in all countries. Germany, for example, posted a historically low level at the end of last September. Similarly, Austria had only half filled its storage capacity.

But this European obligation will not change much to the Russian problem. Brussels therefore proposes to pool orders from European countries, by setting up a “task force” responsible, on the model of vaccine orders, of negotiating prices and above all of winning as many orders as possible.

“By pooling demand, the task force would facilitate and strengthen the international influence of the EU among suppliers with a view to guaranteeing imports at attractive prices in anticipation of next winter”, explains the European Commission in a press release. In reality, the experience of vaccines has shown that it is indeed the highest bidder who wins the orders.

The LNG saviour?

The other problem is the lack of alternatives. Norway or Algeria, main suppliers with Russia, do not have the capacity to increase their production in the short term.

The alternative must be liquefied natural gas (LNG) which is transported by tanker and therefore does not depend on gas pipelines. This option offers new supply routes to Europeans: mainly Qatar but also Nigeria or Australia. And especially the United States as President Joe Biden arrived in Brussels on Wednesday. “I will discuss tomorrow with President Biden how to prioritize LNG deliveries from the United States to the European Union in the coming months,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told parliament. European in Brussels.

“Our objective is to obtain a commitment on additional deliveries for the next two winters,” she added.

Still, it would be necessary to replace the approximately 140 billion cubic meters of Russian gas. “It’s impossible, it’s a chimera”, explained on BFM Business Vincent Demoury, general delegate of GIIGNL (International Group of Importers of Liquefied Natural Gas). “When we hear the European Commission say that we are going to import 50 billion cubic meters of additional LNG by the end of the year, it is unrealistic, illusory. We must not delude ourselves.”

Europe must first face formidable competition from China, which consumes a lot of gas. Similarly, Europe is rather well equipped with LNG terminals which are essential for regasifying imported LNG, but this will not be enough to quickly replace Russian gas.

If the floodgates close, Europe will face a deep energy crisis. The solutions exist: renewable energies, nuclear, hydrogen, biomass… but here again all these options cannot be massively developed in such a tight time frame.

More realistically, fuel oil or even coal could replace part of the gas, while high energy sobriety could allow welcome savings. Fingers crossed that next winter will be mild…

Thomas Le Roy Journalist BFM Business

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.