Europe striving to quit Russian gas dependence

Europe striving to quit Russian gas dependence

Europe striving to quit Russian gas dependence

From plans for liquefied natural gas terminals in northern Germany, Finland and France to potential new routes through Spain and the Mediterranean, Europe is striving to rid itself of its dependence on Russian gas, though experts say the task will take years to complete.

In Middelfart in central Denmark, work resumed last month on the Baltic Pipe project, a planned 900-kilometre link, mainly intended to help Poland reduce its dependence on Russian natural gas.

Just a week after the invasion of Ukraine, the Danish environmental authority granted a permit to continue construction, after a nine-month suspension.          

It is now expected to start operations in October, before becoming fully operational on Jan. 1, 2023.

With an annual transport capacity of 10 billion cubic metres of gas, the pipeline should cover around 50 percent of consumption by Poland.   

While this may be good news for Poland, it could spell trouble for other European countries seeking to free themselves of Russian gas.

Norway, Europe’s second-largest gas supplier after Russia, is delivering at full capacity, so more gas to Poland means less for the rest of the continent.

While the European Union has resisted calls to ban Russian gas immediately, it has announced plans to slash imports by two thirds this year and eliminate them entirely before the end of the decade.

Europe is looking for gas from further away, including liquefied natural gas (LNG) transported by ship from the U.S., Qatar and Africa.   

But such imports require the construction of large LNG terminals to turn it back into gas or, at the very least, the purchase of so-called floating storage regasification units.

As the entry into service of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia has been suspended, Germany has urgently relaunched three LNG terminal projects previously considered to be of low priority.

Finland and Estonia last week announced a project to lease an import terminal ship.    

In southern Europe, Spain and Portugal are strengthening an alternative supply route to help Europe wean itself off Russian gas.

To this end, the port of Sines, Portugal’s largest, plans to double the capacity of its gas terminal in under two years.

Spain, which is linked to Algeria via a pipeline and has vast LNG terminals, could provide another supply option for Europe but this would require major work to improve connections with the rest of the EU, notably via France.     

Another option under consideration is to connect Europe to the gas from the eastern Mediterranean, where large reserves have been discovered off Israel and Cyprus over the past 20 years.