As sanctions deepen, just how crucial is Russian gas?

Posted: July 28, 2014 by tallbloke in Carbon cycle, Energy, government, Shale gas, wind

From New Scientist:

As sanctions deepen, just how crucial is Russian gas?
17:00 24 July 2014 by Jon Excell

Russian-bear-cartoonEurope gets around 30 per cent of its gas from Russia, but some countries are more dependent on it than others: the Czech Republic and Finland, for example, import at least 80 per cent of their gas from the country, while Germany, which has been treading particularly carefully in its dealings with Putin, imports around 36 per cent of its natural gas and 39 per cent of its oil from Russian suppliers.

The situation in the UK is less clear. Gas imports account for around 70 per cent of supply, but because of the complex European network of pipelines and interconnectors that we rely on, it’s difficult to say exactly how much of that imported gas is Russian. Some reports claim that Russia supplies around 15 per cent of that total and others put this figure much lower. Russian energy giant Gazprom estimates that it sends 11 to 12 billion cubic metres to the UK each year, out of an overall UK consumption of around 84 billion cubic metres.

Whatever the figure, if Russia cuts gas supply to Europe, the knock-on effect would be felt as keenly in the UK as in many other parts of Europe. The crisis may also affect a deal made between Centrica (which owns British Gas) and Gazprom to begin importing 2.4 bn cubic metres of Russian gas via a pipeline from Holland in a couple of months’ time.

It’s hard to predict what will happen next. If investigations into the attack on MH17 establish a clear link with Russian separatists in Ukraine – and Putin continues to support them – then deeper sanctions may be hard to resist and the crisis is likely to have a rapid and fundamental impact on Europe’s energy landscape. On the other hand, if the investigations are inconclusive and Putin, who is basking in record domestic approval ratings, continues to tough it out, gas supplies might remain uninterrupted.

Whatever happens, the situation is a striking reminder of why security and independence should be key priorities for the UK’s energy supply, and should serve as a wake-up call to boost investment in technology that enables us to achieve this.

The current crisis is also likely to increase the volume of the discussion around using hydraulic fracturing (fracking) to access the UK’s on-shore shale gas reserves, which supporters say could provide us with a source of plentiful, cheap energy for many years.

  1. SalvaVenia says:

    Not a single proof until now for Russia’s involvement exists.

    And from a purely political (not humane), please, central European point of view; why not let the UK and her other allies suffer? After all, couldn’t they turn towards their one big brother from the other side of the pond for help, if they’d need energy? Might become a nice blow towards the CIty of London, as a welcoming side-effect.

    History teaches that unless empires starts suffering badly, a change fort he better cannot be expected.

  2. colliemum says:

    Clever van Rumpoy has already said that sanctions should not affect the Russian gas industry, only their oil industry.
    And anyway, here in the UK we won’t have any problems because of our wonderful wind and solar industry! So what if we get rolling brown-outs and so what if people not employed in Whitehall and Local councils will have to shiver and sit in the dark! At least, we, the peasants, won’t be able to use our PCs when there’s no electricity, and thus won’t be able to harass our government and the establishment hack pack, so: result!

    Btw – isn’t it time that the meme of ‘Putin shot down MH17’ is put to rest? Even the USA – who still have not published their actual satellite data – is silently back-pedalling, and one would assume that politicians who were really interested in getting to the bottom of this were asking to wait until at least the results of the investigations of the black boxes – now in the UK – were available.

  3. Joe Public says:

    “As sanctions deepen, just how crucial is Russian gas?”

    For Europe, or, for Russia?

    Is Russia more-able to forego 9 months cash-flow, than Europe one winter with diminished supplies?

    As @ colliemum mentions, the US has gone remarkably quiet since it’s initial accusations. But then its Shale Gas export infrastructure isn’t up & running yet. Besides, after the USS Vincennes cock-up, it’d be rank hypocrisy for the US to criticise any nation for shooting down a civilian airliner.

  4. oldbrew says:

    ‘we, the peasants, won’t be able to use our PCs when there’s no electricity’

    A smartphone or tablet PC with internet and a solar charger does the trick.
    But volunteer business/industrial users will be cut off first and/or their generators will be borrowed if they have signed up to STOR.

    That describes a complex system then ends by saying:
    ‘…as a last resort, large areas can be switched out manually’.

    Then it’s ‘game over’ 😉

  5. DD More says:

    colliemum says: July 28, 2014 at 2:15 pm
    ” Even the USA – who still have not published their actual satellite data ”

    Maybe we got the word that with sanctions, no more rocket engines will be delivered and they will need to figure out what is more important, Ukraine or getting more spy satellites up.

  6. tom0mason says:

    Seems like a good time for the UK politicians to read (or even reread) the little document put out by datacenterdynamics which deals with electricity power outages.
    Scotland’s figures are particularly interesting.

    Then think again about how hydrolic fracturing for gas fits with maintaining the national requirement for electricity in the short term, and nuclear for the long term.
    Or are they living on the hope that harsh winters will never happen again.

  7. Joe Public says:

    @ oldbrew July 28, 2014 at 3:39 pm

    “….’we, the peasants, won’t be able to use our PCs when there’s no electricity’

    A smartphone or tablet PC with internet and a solar charger does the trick.”

    But how does the info get from the servers ‘into’ the system; and, from the input point to the recipient? I don’t recall noticing solar arrays & turbines on the top of cellphone repeater masts in the UK.