This may not have been what Vladimir Putin expected when he decided to invade Ukraine: in less than two years, the European Union would no longer be the largest recipient of Russian gas. Eurostat data shows this during the first nine months of this year. 15 million tons of Russian gas flowed through pipelines to the countries of the group. For comparison: in the same period last year, the EU imported 36.4 million tons from Russia in this way. This means a decrease of 58%.
A slightly smaller decline occurred in the case of liquefied gas, i.e. liquefied natural gas. While in the first nine months of 2023, 7 million tons of this raw material arrived from Russia to Europe, in 2022 it reached 7.3 million tons, or 4%. less. The Kremlin has never been the most important supplier of LNG to Europe (it ranks third), but it has always been No. 1 when it comes to natural gas imported via pipelines. Events over the past 10 months or so have caused it to drop two places in this ranking and it is now the #3 resource.
Europe is benefiting from the American shale oil miracle
The group's countries are filling the gaps left by Russian gas in two ways. First, more gas is flowing from Norway (but also from Algeria) via pipelines to Europe. Second, Europeans are importing twice as much LNG as they would in 2021; The United States is responsible for nearly half of the deliveries, and thus has become the biggest beneficiary of the market vacuum left by European customers turning away from the Kremlin.
There was little politics and little luck in this tremendous change. Politics, because the EU has wanted to become independent of supplies from Russia for some time (although we should remember that not every country had such ambitions, see Germany's position on the Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines). Good luck – because the fact that the United States is now able to send so many ships loaded with LNG to Europe is a combination of two processes: the shale revolution in the United States, which has provided access to large deposits of this raw material, and the development of shale oil. . of export capabilities, which until recently were not available in the United States of America. The first LNG export terminal – Sabine Pass in Louisiana – was built only in 2016, and since then the Americans have been investing heavily in the construction of other terminals.
- Belatedly, Donald Trump's words came true. After a meeting with the President of the European Commission in 2018 (they managed to prevent a trade war between the United States and the European Union), he announced that the Europeans would soon begin buying “huge quantities” of American liquefied natural gas (“and we have a lot of it!”). “The then-White House tenant said matter-of-factly.”
- is reading: Europe is importing more and more LNG from Russia. Two countries among world leaders
Strong supplies for the winter
As a result, while in the first months of the war Europe was worried about a freeze at the beginning of 2022/2023, this year the topic of winter gas reserves completely disappeared from the headlines. The reason is simple: blue fuel storage facilities in member states are 90% full. Already in August, two and a half months before November 1st – the deadline set by the European Commission to achieve this level, which is considered safe even in the face of a cold winter.
Although the level of European warehouse filling has decreased slightly since then (to 87%), Europe is currently in a much better position than in previous years – for example, in 2021 at this time of year, this indicator was Less than 60%. . (It's not crisis level anyway.)
Natural gas storage facilities are the basis for winter stability. These are often underground facilities that utilize either exploited natural gas deposits (i.e. free space underground that was previously filled with gas; then called “fields”) or natural formations created in salt deposits (then called “caves”). . It is also possible to store the gas in closed mines, such as hard coal.
The storage system works as follows: In the summer, when demand for blue fuel decreases, it is injected underground. In winter, when demand is higher, the system pumps gas from there, thus supplementing the shortage in the network.
Poland has very small warehouses
There are also gas storage facilities in Poland (their filling level is currently more than 90%). There are seven of them. Five of them are deposit storage facilities (Husów, Strachocina, Brzeźnica, Swarzów, Wierzchowice), and two are cave storage facilities (Mogilno and Kosakowo). In addition, there are two reservoirs for nitrogen-rich gas (Daszewo and Bonikowo; this gas is either sold locally or, after denitrification, is injected into the public network as gas with a high methane content).
Deposit stores differ from cave stores in their operational characteristics: the former fill slowly and empty slowly; The latter can be quickly filled and emptied. The former is therefore ideal for daily system adjustments when a slight increase in available “base energy” is needed; The latter, in turn, works great when demand for blue fuel is growing rapidly.
The capacity of gas storage facilities in Poland currently stands at 3.2 billion cubic metres. It sounds like a lot, but it's actually only 15%. Annual demand. That is why PGNiG and now Orlen are expanding the warehouse in Wierzchowice, which will increase its capacity by 61%, from the current 1.3 to 2.1 billion cubic metres. However, there are countries in Europe that are able to store up to approximately 50 percent. (Hungary and the Czech Republic) or approximately 70 percent (Slovakia) of the annual demand.
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