Commercial Makeup of Geopolitical Projects: How Russia Builds Infrastructure to Re-route Transit of Natural Gas via Ukraine
September 10, 2018
In 2011 Russia ended construction of the Nord Stream pipeline for the transportation of 55 bcm of natural gas to Germany via Baltic Sea. The project rationale suggested that it is a commercial deal without any political implications, not a re-routing project but triggered by rising demand in the EU. As a result of the first year of the Nord Stream pipeline functioning transit via Ukraine to Germany dropped dramatically. For instance, data from the International Energy Association shows that in Velke Kapusane border point with Slovak Republic (the main line of transit via Ukraine to Germany, Italy, Central and Eastern Europe, and Balkan states) the transit volume decreased from 68.7 bcm in 2011 to 50 bcm in 2012. In 2017 Germany received only 2 bcm of Russian gas via Ukraine and Ukrainian natural gas transportation system was used only for 60% of its full capacity.
At the same time, the Kremlin is lobbying and already has started construction (after permits from Germany, Sweden, and Finland) of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline doubling capacities of the existing Nord Stream. Additional 55 bcm is more than the whole transit via Ukraine-Slovakia line in 2017 (52.5 bcm). The rationale of the project is the same as for the first Nord Stream project. Russia’s lobbyists in Europe argue that it has only commercial value without political implications and re-routing strategies.
However, broader look at the issue shows that Nord Stream 2 is only part of the Moscow’s plans to end the transit via Ukraine to destabilize its economy and make the country vulnerable to Russian aggression. In April 2018 the first part of TurkStream pipeline (transit capacity – 31.5 bcm) was constructed, and it cuts off the average annual transit of 12-13 bcm of Russian natural gas via Ukraine to Turkey. The Kremlin is also working on the TurkStream continuation to Bulgaria and Greece (cutting off the transit via Ukraine to those countries, Macedonia, and with a perspective to cut off a part of the transit to Italy, which is the main destination of Russian natural gas transit via Ukraine). Moreover, Russia’s lobbyists in Bulgaria are blocking the construction of the alternative pipeline from Greece, which should transport natural gas from Azerbaijan to Bulgaria via Southern Gas Corridor.
These are not all of the Russian pipeline projects to re-route transit via Ukraine. EUGAL project with a planned capacity of 55 bcm is a continuation of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline in the territories of the European Union. It goes from the Baltic Sea to the border point with the Czech Republic from which it could be effectively redirected to cut off existing transit lines via Ukraine. The EUGAL project together with the existing OPAL pipeline concentrate 90 bcm of the possible 110 bcm of natural gas flow from Nord Stream and Nord Stream 2 in the direction to Czech Republic border and not directly to the growing natural gas markets in Western Germany, the Netherlands, and Great Britain. Moreover, it is not only about re-routing from Ukraine but also cutting off direct supply to Baltic states.
The Kremlin has a strict deadline for all those projects. It is the end of 2019 when the deal with Naftogaz Ukraine ends and Russia wants to dictate new conditions of the natural gas supply to Europe. Moreover, at that time Ukraine will be after the Presidential and Parliamentary elections of 2019 and based on the returns Russia could use re-routing as a geopolitical tool to influence Ukrainian economy or even as a prerequisite for aggression in the East of the country.
In such a situation, Germany is still supporting the construction of the Nord Stream 2, and there are no talks on how to regulate Gazprom supply of natural gas via existing and planned infrastructure, security guarantees and common interest of the whole Europe.
You can find the Map of Natural Gas Supply to Europe (based on data from International Energy Association and BP Statistical Review of World Energy).
Author: Data Journalism Agency TEXTY (Kyiv, Ukraine)Author : Ukrainian Liaison Office in Brussels