Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Russia, Germany and the greenies will not be able to stop the shale gas revolution

Russia and its government controlled Gazprom energy company are increasingly worried about the coming shale gas revolution in Eastern Europe - particularly in Poland.

Here is why:  
One way that Russia has reasserted its influence in Central and Eastern Europe is through it's energy export policy. The natural gas pipelines that were built in the 1980s, (over the objections of the Reagan administration) have made large parts of Europe dependent on Russia's natural gas. In places like Ukraine and Belarus Russia has not hesitated to use gas supplies to reward its friends and punish its enemies. In Ukraine, in 2005-2006 Kremlin bosses cut the gas flow in order to put pressure on leaders in Kiev who were moving towards friendly relations with the West.
Poland is, to put it mildly, not a historic friend of Russia's. The leaders in the Kremlin have long resented the fact that in order to sell natural gas to Germany and to other places in Western Europe they have to pay transit fees to the government in Warsaw. Gazprom, the Russian gas monopoly, has recently been building an underwater gas pipeline that will bypass Poland and pump the gas directly from Russia to Germany.
If Germany suddenly can buy gas from Poland, the economic justification of this under-the-Baltic pipeline becomes problematic . At the very least, the project will take many more years to pay for itself than it would if Russian natural gas did not have to compete with Polish natural gas for the German market.
Russia has a history of responding violently when its energy interests are challenged. The oil pipeline that bypasses Russia by going through the Republic of Georgia and Turkey and sending oil directly from Azerbaijan and Central Asia to the Mediterranean, certainly angered Moscow and was part of the motivation for the Georgia-Russia war of 2008.

Read the entire article here

The Krakow Post adds:

Russia has long regarded Poland as within its economic sphere of influence and Moscow is less than happy that Warsaw is looking west rather than east for help. American companies have already crossed Gazprom’s plans for expansion in Norway and Azerbaijan and the Russian Minister for Natural Resources, Yuri Trutnev, has called shale gas “a problem.” Russia’s Gazprom, the biggest natural gas producer in the world and the owner of one sixth of known global gas deposits, has tried to downplay the importance of shale gas in the past, but has recently joined the rush to find its own.

Read the entire article here

And it is not only Poland that is intent on breaking the dependency on Russian gas:

Ukraine is stepping up efforts to attract billion-dollar investments and expertise from the world’s largest energy companies, hoping they can diversify energy supplies for an economy that is being squeezed by increasingly expensive fuel imports from its main supplier, Russia.

On July 6, Ukraine’s government formally launched a tender in which it asked potential investors to prepare feasibility studies on construction of the nation’s first liquefied natural gas plant.

Ukraine has decided that it needs western capital and technology to develop its potentially large shale gas reserves. Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron, ExxonMobil and TNK-BP are among companies said to be eyeing exploration and production licenses.
Late last month, Vadim Chuprun, deputy energy minister, said “ExxonMobil, Halliburton, ConocoPhillips, Shell and other companies” have “responded to our proposals

Read the entire article here

After Croatia, Gazprom might lose another European customer – Bulgaria, Russian newspaper Kommersant reported today. The newspaper cites the Bulgarian minister of economy and energy Traicho Traikov.
According to Traikov the Bulgarian government intends to cancel the long-term contracts with Gazprom within 2-3 years. Bulgaria would decrease the quantities of Russian gas it buys from current 2 bn to 500 mn. cub meters annually. The country would rely on local gas output near the town of Lovech, as well as on future shale gas exploration near Novi Pazar, Kommersant further said.

Read the entire article here

Washington backs Lithuania's bid for energy independence, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Friday in the Baltic nation, which relies entirely on Cold War master Russia for its gas.
"We strongly support Lithuania's energy independence strategy, which includes regional development of nuclear power, liquefied natural gas, unconventional oil and gas, as well as gas and electricity links between the Baltic States and the rest of the European Union," Clinton told journalists.
Experts estimate that Lithuania has sufficient reserves of gas trapped in shale – rock containing hydrocarbons – to cover its needs for between 30 and 50 years.

Read the entire article here

Adding to Russia´s problems is the fact that China is no more willing to pay exorbitant prices for Russian gas, because the Chinese know that they will soon be able to get their own shale gas:

Russia insists the gas glut is temporary. It has tried to fight back by pushing gas sales to China. But now those talks are stalled over price thanks to Beijing's discovery that—guess what?—China back home may have the biggest shale potential of all.
And the hits will keep on coming, upending a high-price dynamic and European dependency that have suited Russia very well (and, admittedly, also suited some of its customers, especially German utilities).

Read the entire article here

Russia and Gazprom are actively lobbying against shale gas exploration in the EU, joining forces with various enviro-fundamentalist NGO´s and parties, who are basically against all energy sources, except wind and solar. The Russians are here counting on assistance particularly from Germany, a country now almost totally dominated by the radical green ideology. Germany has also invested a lot of money and prestige in the Nord Stream gas pipeline, the profitability of which is seriously endangered, if and when it is going to be possible to buy gas from neighbouring Poland.

However, it is not likely that the Eastern European countries are going to allow the anti-shale gas lobby to prevent the coming shale gas revolution in Europe. Poland and the other countries with potential shale gas resources will not - and rightly so - accept a Europe-wide ban or moratorium on shale gas exploration. Russia and Gazprom will have to rethink their strategy. The days when they were able to wage "energy war" in Europe are gone, hopefully for ever.

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