Boris Johnson outlines plan to phase out Russian oil and gas
Concerns are growing that gas supplies to Europe could be cut amid the invasion of Ukraine as tensions between the Kremlin and the West increase. But Russian President Vladimir Putin has said Russia remains committed to supplying gas to the rest of the world, despite harsh sanctions over the attack on Ukraine.
Russia supplies 13 European countries with more than half of their gas supply.
European dependency on Russian gas and oil has increased in recent years due to depleting reserves in the North Sea, cutting of coal power to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, decommissioning of nuclear power plants, and insufficient investment in renewable sources.
Countries including Bosnia and Herzegovina and Moldova receive 100 percent of their gas supply from Russia.
Russian energy giant Gazprom operates all pipelines from Russia and is the largest publicly-listed natural gas company in the world, with a stronghold on Europe’s energy.
Supply running directly through Ukraine
A total of 40 billion cubic meters per annum (bcmpa) can be transported through Ukraine’s network of three pipelines.
This is just half the amount needed to power Germany, which consumed 86.6bcm in 2020.
Around a third of Russia’s gas supply is transported through Ukraine’s 23,950 miles of pipelines delivering supplied to Poland, Slovakia and Moldova – designed during the Soviet era they remain a key feature in Europe’s energy security.
Despite being a key route for gas pipelines, Ukraine stopped buying gas directly from Russia in 2015 after Moscow’s annexation of Crimea.
Instead, they use a gas buy-back system whereby they purchase Russian gas that travels through Ukraine from Western traders.
In 2021, Ukraine consumed 27.3bcm of gas – about 19.8bcm from its own production, 2.6bcm imported through the buy-back scheme and 4.9bcm from underground storage.
According to The Center for Strategic and International Studies, shutting off Ukraine’s pipelines would only directly impact Slovakia, Austria and Italy.
Russia supplies around 40 percent of Europe’s gas demand
Nord Stream 1 and 2
The most direct connection between Russian gas reserves and energy markets in the European Union is served by the Nord Stream pipeline.
Nord Stream 1 runs 759 miles along the Baltic Sea bed – the longest sub-sea pipeline in the world – from Vyborg, Russia to Lubmin near Greifswald, Germany carrying 55 bcmpa.
Parallel to Nord Stream 1 lies the Nord Stream 2 pipeline which would transport a further 55 bcmpa if it becomes operational, which Russia claimed would ease prices amid the ongoing energy crunch in Europe.
As part of a raft of sanctions against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz – who had been under pressure to cancel the project amid the build-up of Russian military on Ukraine’s Eastern border in the months preceding the invasion – announced the decision to halt the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline.
Mr Scholz said: “In light of the most recent developments we must reassess the situation in particular regarding Nord Stream 2. Such actions must not remain without consequences.”
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Mapped: Gas pipelines linking Russia and Europe
A spokesman for UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson welcomed the move. “It’s certainly something we’ve said both in conversations and publicly repeatedly. Being dependent on Russian hydrocarbons in this way is not beneficial to Europe.”
And US state department spokesperson Ned Price said that President Joe Biden’s administration was “working with Germany” to ensure it could withstand the loss of the pipeline.
The $11billion (£8.32billion) Nord Stream 2 pipeline which runs 764 miles from western Siberia to Germany was completed in 2021 but is yet to be used.
However, Nord Stream 2 was also criticised for increasing Europe’s dependence on Russia to meet energy demands.
The decision to suspend Nord Stream 2 caused European gas prices to rocket by as much as 13 percent.
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Other pipelines from Russia to Europe
Over the last 20 years, Russia has built additional pipelines to circumnavigate Ukraine and protect its gas exports from regional issues, from the weather to terrorism and conflict.
The longest operational pipeline, Yamal, measures 2,552 miles and transports 33 bcmpa from the Yamal Peninsula and Western Siberia through Belarus and Poland to the German border.
Meanwhile, the Blue Stream pipeline carries gas directly from Russia to Turkey transporting 16 bcmpa over 754 miles through the Black Sea.
It was a joint venture between Gazprom and Eni, an Italian multinational oil and gas company, but last week Eni announced it would sell its 50 percent share.
Like Blue Stream, TurkStream delivers gas to Turkey through the Black sea and also serves southeastern Europe – bypassing Ukraine.
Construction of an extension to Turkstream began in 2020 and once complete will deliver 31.5 bcmpa to central Europe.
Russia transports gas to Europe through eight pipelines
What about the UK?
The UK has no direct gas pipelines with Russia and receives just four percent of gas from Russia.
British gas demands are met by dwindling reserves in the North Sea and imports from Norway as well as imports of liquid natural gas from the Middle East.
On Tuesday, March 8, the UK Government said it would phase out the imports of Russian oil by the end of 2022.
And Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said on Twitter: “…while the UK is not dependent on Russian natural gas – four percent of our supply – I am exploring options to end this altogether.”
The EU aims to cut its Russian gas dependence by two-thirds this year, according to the International Energy Agency.
EU Green Deal chief Frans Timmermans told the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Monday reducing dependency: “It’s not easy but it’s feasible.”
He told POLITICO that there would be an accelerated rollout of renewable energy, biofuels and hydrogen.
He said: “Given the fact that the energy markets will be tight for the foreseeable future, creating your own energy resources is strategically the smartest and the most urgent choice.”