From Denmark to Portugal, Europe is stepping up efforts to free itself from Russian gas

Posted on Tue Apr 12, 2022 at 10:52am

Close to a muddy trench, large black pipes will soon be buried in this corner of the earth in Denmark. Long halted, construction of the gas pipeline connecting Norway and Poland resumed after the invasion of Ukraine.

From LNG terminal projects in northern Germany, Finland or France, to potential new routes through Spain or the eastern Mediterranean, Europe is working hard to free itself of Russian gas, although the task will take years, experts say.

In Middelvart, on the Danish island of Funen, work on the Baltic Tube resumed last month to complete this nearly 900-kilometre link.

“It is also about having gas in the Danish system, but above all to help the gas system of our good neighbors and our Polish friends,” explains to AFP Soren Jules Larsen, project manager at the Danish operator. Energy Infrastructure Energinet.

Barely a week after the invasion of Ukraine, the Danish Environment Agency – which was particularly concerned about the project’s impact on native species of mice and bats – granted permission to continue construction, nine months after the suspension.

“We expected it would be approved soon, but of course the war made the issue more urgent,” said Trine Velomsen-Berling, a researcher at the Danish Institute of International Studies.

Nearly 20 years old, starting in 2018, the partially subsea project should now enter service in October, before becoming operational on January 1, 2023.

“We have really good cooperation with all contractors to expedite, and do everything we can to stick to the schedule,” confirms Jules Larsen while presenting the buildings.

– Nord Stream 2 stopped –

With an annual transport capacity of 10 billion cubic meters of gas, the gas pipeline should guarantee half of the consumption of Poland, which three years ago announced the end of its mega contract with Russian giant Gazprom in 2022.

But this good news for Warsaw may complicate supplies for the rest of Europe, and is a sign of the complexity of supplies on the continent.

Norway, the second largest supplier of gas in Europe after Russia, ensures that it is producing at full capacity and therefore the gas that reaches Poland will not be sold in Western Europe.

“This project should help Poland, but it could lead to a reduction in Norwegian gas exports to the UK and Germany,” Rystad expert Zongqiang Lu told analysts.

In addition, many long-term contracts between Russia and European suppliers are still valid for 10 to 15 years, he notes.

But according to the EU executive, the EU could do without Russian gas completely “before 2030”.

With Norway at full speed, declining deposits in the Netherlands and the UK, and Russia undesirable, so Europe is seeking its gas from further afield, with ship-carrying LNG, coming from the US, Qatar or Africa.

But importing it requires building heavy-duty terminals, or at least purchasing floating storage and gas-to-gas regasification units (FSRUs) for imported LNG.

– alternative methods –

Faced with the abandonment of Russia’s Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline – which resumed construction last winter in Danish waters – Germany has urgently relaunched three projects to install LNG plants, hitherto considered non-priority.

One could be ready for winter 2023/24, the other two not earlier than 2026.

Finland, which is linked to Estonia, on Thursday announced a project to lease an import port vessel, while the three Baltic states announced that they had stopped importing Russian gas since April 1.

In southern Europe, Spain and Portugal are scrambling for an alternative supply of Russian gas.

Sens Port, Portugal’s largest, plans to double the gas station’s capacity in less than two years.

Connected with a gas pipeline to Algeria and equipped with vast LNG terminals, Spain could offer an option. But this involves hard work to improve relations with the rest of the European Union, across France.

Another path has been relaunched as well: connecting gas from the eastern Mediterranean to Europe, which was discovered en masse 20 years ago off the coasts of Israel and Cyprus.

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