Monday, September 20, 2021

Nord Stream 2: is Gazprom blackmailing Germany with gas price?

As previously reported, experts warned for years  that Gazprom could use its dominant position as a gas supplier to blackmail Germany and other european states. 

According to expertes, this is what is happening right now. Now that the pipeline is fully constructed, there is still an operating license pending and the question of conformity with EU laws is unsolved before the pipeline is ready-to-use. However Gazprom presses forward to get the pipeline operational as soon as possible and points to hiking gas prices writes german newspaper BILD:

Bad news from Moscow for German gas customers!

A few days after the completion of the Russian Baltic Sea pipeline Nord Stream 2, it becomes clear: Russian President Vladimir Putin is using the pipe precisely for what experts have warned about for years. He blackmailed Germany and Europe. Anyone who does not play according to the rules of the state company Gazprom pays heavily or even has to freeze in winter.

First comeuppance: the price for Russian natural gas in Europe has already risen by a staggering 444 percent in the last twelve months.

A price increase that experts attribute to a large extent to the artificial reduction in imports by Russia's state-owned company Gazprom.

Explosive: Germany is more dependent on Russian gas than ever before. 55 percent of the natural gas burned in this country comes from Putin's empire.

Bad news from Moscow for German gas customers!

A few days after the completion of the Russian Baltic Sea pipeline Nord Stream 2, it becomes clear: Russian President Vladimir Putin is using the tube for exactly what experts have warned about for years. He blackmailed Germany and Europe. Anyone who does not play according to the rules of the state company Gazprom pays heavily or even has to freeze in winter.

First receipt: the price for Russian natural gas in Europe has already risen by a staggering 444 percent in the past twelve months.

A price increase that experts attribute in large part to the artificial reduction in imports by Russia's state-owned company Gazprom.

Explosive: Germany is more dependent on Russian gas than ever before. 55 percent of the natural gas burned in this country comes from Putin's empire.

Russia's gas giant Gazprom has not only reduced transit to Europe to a contractually agreed minimum through Ukraine - since the summer, significantly less gas has been flowing through the Yamal gas pipeline to Germany via Poland than would be necessary to ensure medium-term supply.

The result: Germany's natural gas storage facilities are currently only 63 percent full. Last year at this time it was 94 percent.

In addition, in July, for the first time in the history of the Yamal pipeline, Gazprom no longer took part in the auction of transport capacities for the next few years.

That is why experts warned in the summer that Gazprom would make Germany’s further inexpensive gas supply dependent on the commissioning of the Nord Stream 2 Baltic Sea tube. And that although the pipeline does not currently meet the requirements of the EU and therefore has neither a certification by the Federal Network Agency nor a permit to start operations by the authorities in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.

A horror scenario that came true this week.

Nobody less than Putin spokesman Dmitri Peskow now declared in Moscow: "Of course, the fastest possible commissioning of Nord Stream 2 will largely offset the natural gas prices in Europe."

To put it plainly: If Nord Stream 2 still does not go online after its completion because the Russians do not want to submit to European gas directives, the price for gas will continue to rise dramatically in our country.

Experts fear that too.

It is possible "that Russia and Gazprom are strategically and deliberately restricting exports to Europe (...) in order to influence and accelerate the decision-making process of the German and European authorities regarding the certification of Nord Stream 2", says Tom Marzec-Manser , leading gas expert at ICIS, opposite the "Tagesspiegel".

The US energy expert and senior researcher at the Center for European Policy Analyzes (CEPA) Benjamin Schmitt emphasizes that “Gazprom's undersupply of European gas storage facilities over existing routes such as Ukraine and Poland has contributed to the market pressure in recent months we see today ”.

Schmitt told BILD that leading experts in the field agreed that "the Kremlin will use the situation to force the EU to quickly certify Nord Stream 2". Meanwhile, according to gas expert Schmitt, Russian officials are also saying out loud "that a quick approval of Nord Stream 2 later this year could alleviate a potential energy crisis".

This also means: If Nord Stream 2 does not go live on time according to Moscow's terms, there could be serious - planned - delivery bottlenecks in the coming winter.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Nord Stream 2: possible geostrategic impacts

In an essay french researcher Loic Simonet explains the possible consequences of the now  - at least constructionally - completet pipeline Nord Stream 2. Via Le Monde:

On September 6, the last tube of Nord Stream 2 was submerged in the waters of the Baltic Sea. This pipeline crosses the sea areas of Finland, Sweden and Denmark for 1,200 km, between the Russian coast and Germany. Its two pipes will, from the fall, deliver an additional 55 billion cubic meters of Russian gas per year (or half of German consumption) to Western Europe.

Rarely has a “commercial project”, as its promoters continue to call it, been so politicized. Having become the stake of a pitched battle between Germany and a "sling of losers" supported by the United States - anxious to avoid the marginalization of Ukraine as a transit corridor for Russian gas -, Nord Stream 2 was a formidable test for the European Union and its ability to speak with one voice. Described in 2016 by Joe Biden as a "bad deal for Europe," a scapegoat for the US Congress, the "Putin pipeline" has driven a wedge between NATO allies.

The compromise reached by the United States and Germany on July 21 is, of course, part of the new president's promise to reconnect with Europe and rebuild transatlantic relations degraded by his predecessor. In the crosshairs may also be Chinese pressure and the urgency to rally the political forces of the western camp, shaken by the handling of the Afghan crisis. By lifting the restrictions that had hung over the project since 2019 and allowing its completion, Biden also appears to have realized the counterproductive impact of US extraterritorial sanctions and their stimulating effect on European thinking on resilience. However, the Nord Stream 2 affair will leave deep resentments on both sides, as the EU and NATO each reflect on their strategic positioning.

The words of Radek Sikorski, former Polish defense minister, comparing Nord Stream to the German-Soviet pact of 1939, reveal the frustration of the central and eastern European states most exposed to the Russian threat and to possible ruptures. energy supply. The complaints received by the European Commission and the "betrayal" of Poland, which has openly called on the United States to extend its sanctions against Russia to Nord Stream 2, have cast a harsh light on the differences between the Twenty-Seven. with regard to the latter and, ipso facto, Ukraine in the post-2014 context. They restored a dividing line between old and new Europeans.

The United States is engulfed in the breach, engaging in a real interference against the project, not without provoking a sharp repartee of the German authorities, including the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Heiko Maas: "Questions of energy policy European Union must be discussed in Europe, not in the United States. As for the European Commission, by publicly expressing its lack of attraction for the second line of the Baltic gas pipeline, it has been accused of using the energy argument for geopolitical ends, thus turning against it. - even his criticisms of Russia. A few years after the calamitous stagnation of the Nabucco gas pipeline project, the positions taken by Brussels on Nord Stream 2 have once again accredited the vision of a Europe that is prolix in grandiloquent but ineffective statements.

Across a space that separates a rapidly expanding NATO area and a Russia that has restored its power without taking gloves, against the backdrop of the Ukrainian crisis and the deployment of Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad, fears are strong that Nord Stream 2 will serve as a vector for political or economic countermeasures. Former Senator Richard Lugar, influential chairman of the US Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, expressed concern over the consequences of European energy dependence on the cohesion of the Atlantic Alliance. This is also the question that Donald Trump raised on May 17, 2018, when he received NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the White House; and it was one of his allies that the former US president violently attacked, accusing Germany of being "totally in control" and "a prisoner" of Russia.

The negotiations opened in 1980 by Germany and France with the Soviet Union, with a view to increasing supplies to the immense Urengoy gas field, had led to the "affair" of the Euro-Siberian gas pipeline, l one of the most serious crises that transatlantic relations have known since 1945. The parallel between this historic episode and the Nord Stream 2 controversy is instructive.

Same leading role of Germany, eager to integrate the USSR into a system of cooperation; same jealous reaction from the Americans; the same biased debate on European dependence and its politico-strategic consequences; same vision opposed on both sides of the Atlantic, Europe favoring the economic relationship and the diversification of its supplies, without realizing the politicization of the issue in America, considered from the angle of security; the same temptation, on the Russian side, to play with the differences between allies; same poisoned international context (invasion of Afghanistan, martial law in Poland) affecting an essentially commercial project.

A few years later, an obscure journalist named Antony Blinken published a geopolitical book titled Ally Versus Ally: America, Europe, and the Siberian Pipeline Crisis (Praeger Publishers Inc, 1987). The author urged America and its allies not to allow "peaceful and non-strategic" trade ties with the Eastern Bloc to become a bone of contention. In November, the Twenty-Seven will discuss the first draft of the "strategic compass" which the EU intends to adopt. A few months later, at the Alliance summit in Spain, NATO is expected to endorse its new strategic concept. Hopefully the message from the new US Secretary of State, whose hand behind the July 21 accord, will not be forgotten, including on this side of the Atlantic.

Monday, September 13, 2021

Nord Stream 2: pipeline completed

 The final tube of the contested pipeline has been fixed. A certification by german authorities is required before commissioning. Read the reporting of german newspaper WELT:

The Russian energy company Gazprom has announced the completion of the controversial German-Russian gas pipeline Nord Stream 2. On Friday morning at 8.45 a.m. Moscow time (7.45 a.m. CEST), the construction of Nord Stream 2 was completed, Gazprom boss Alexej Miller told the Tass state agency. The last pipe was laid on September 6th. After that, individual sections of the line would have to be connected to one another; this work has now been completed, it said.

Friday, September 3, 2021

ECJ: Germany Federal Network Agency must obtain more independence

 In a groundbreaking decision, the European Court of Justice ruled that the german Federal Networg Agency (Bundesnetzagentur) must gain more independence from political directions of the german government. A verdict with far-reaching consequences writes WELT:

Who is allowed to use the electricity and gas lines and when? How much are the transfer fees? How strong and where are the networks being expanded? In Germany, the Federal Network Agency regulates these questions, which are crucial for the energy transition and the supply of German citizens - but not alone.

Politicians had given themselves a say in Paragraph 24 of the Energy Industry Act: Whatever the Bonn regulatory authority decides, has followed strict government guidelines and regulations ever since. But that's over now.

In a groundbreaking ruling, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that the Federal Network Agency's lack of political independence violates European law. The Luxembourg judges found that the authority must be able to make decisions completely free of federal requirements.

This is the only way to ensure that the authority's decisions are "impartial and non-discriminatory, which precludes the possibility of preferential treatment of companies and economic interests associated with the government, the majority or at least political power." , which accused the federal government of inadequate implementation of European law in a total of four cases.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Nuclear fusion: "Historical progess" in US lab

Source Le Monde:  

“A historic breakthrough. A US public laboratory on Tuesday (August 17th) congratulated itself on having produced more energy through nuclear fusion than ever before.

The experiment, which took place Aug. 8 at the National Ignition Facility (NIF) in Calif., "Was enabled by the concentration of laser light," no less than 192, "on a target the size of a lead "of hunting, explains a press release. This had the effect of "producing a hot spot the diameter of a hair, generating more than ten quadrillion watts through fusion, for 100 trillionth of a second. "That's eight times more energy than in the last experiments carried out in the spring.

Nuclear fusion is considered by its supporters as the energy of tomorrow, in particular because it produces little waste and no greenhouse gases. It differs from fission, a technique used in nuclear power plants today, which involves breaking the bonds of heavy atomic nuclei to recover energy.

Fusion is the reverse process: we “marry” two light atomic nuclei to create a heavy one. In this case two isotopes (atomic variants) of hydrogen, giving rise to helium. It is this process that is at work in the stars, including our Sun.

"This breakthrough puts researchers very close to the ignition threshold," the statement said, when the energy produced exceeds that used to cause the reaction. Preparations are already underway to reproduce this experiment, which will take "several months", reports the press release, which specifies that detailed data will be published in a scientific journal.

“This result is a historic breakthrough for inertial confinement fusion research,” said Kim Budil, director of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, on which the NIF depends.

“The NIF teams have done an extraordinary job,” commented Professor Steven Rose, Co-Director of the Center for Research in this area at Imperial College London. "This is the most significant advance in inertial fusion since its inception in 1972."

"Transforming this concept into a renewable source of electrical energy will probably be a long process and will involve overcoming significant technical challenges," however tempered Jeremy Chittenden, co-director of the same center in London.

In France, the international ITER project also aims to control the production of energy from the fusion of hydrogen. Reactor assembly began a year ago in Bouches-du-Rhône.

Friday, August 6, 2021

Nord Stream 2: will Gazprom start blackmail manoeuver to bypass EU regulation?

 While an agreement on the completion of the contentious pipeline has been found some energy and geopolitical observers spot ominous signs of suspicious shortening of gas.

While there is no more reasonable doubt about the imminent completion of Nord Stream 2 EU law requires unbundling, meaning: gas producer and pipeline operator must be dissociated. However both, producer and pipeline operator, are ultimately Gazprom-owned.

Experts see foul play of Gazprom to obtain an exemption, writes BILD:

Are millions of Germans threatened by a cold winter because Russia's ruler Vladimir Putin is using his natural gas as a weapon against us?

The dispute over the Russian gas pipeline Nord Stream 2 is escalating dramatically: There are increasing signs that the Kremlin is putting the pistol on Germany's chest so that the pipeline can start operating.

The status today: Nord Stream 2 AG - a wholly owned subsidiary of the Russian state-owned company Gazprom - wants to finish construction work on the tube this month. Shortly afterwards, Gazprom plans to route gas through the pipeline, which is to be delivered primarily to Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic.

Nord Stream 2: Republicans comdemn agreement

 WELT reports:

After giving the green light to the completion of Nord Stream 2, the US government is walking a fine line: Washington argues that the controversial gas pipeline project is a “bad deal” for Ukraine and the rest of Europe.

The small, subtle difference to the previous attitude: one is acting “pragmatically”, and since the construction is almost complete, it is a matter of getting the best out of the Ukraine. It was in this spirit that an understanding was reached with Berlin. Conclusion: Berlin and Washington have not settled their long-standing dispute, the fundamental differences of opinion have not been cleared out of the way. You defused your transatlantic squabbles on your own.

The government of President Joe Biden speaks of “significant differences of opinion” when looking at Nord Stream 2, and of clear opposition to the 1,200-kilometer-long pipe project that is to carry gas from Russia through the Baltic Sea to Lubmin near Greifswald. But when Biden moved into the White House six months ago, 90 percent of the German-Russian pipeline had already been completed, argues Washington. Biden's people are trying to pass the buck to ex-President Donald Trump. He had verbally attacked Nord Stream 2, but was unable to do much against the building. In addition, companies and ships that are involved in the construction have been sanctioned, according to the US government.

So now it's about mitigation. The German-American agreements are intended to help prevent Ukraine from falling victim to the pipeline. Berlin and Washington want to pump money into Ukraine, for example for alternative energies, but above all for greater energy independence from archenemy Russia. A “Green Fund for Ukraine” has been agreed, with at least one billion dollars available for investments. Berlin initially pays in 148 million euros.