Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Russia: is Surgutneftegaz the Kremlin's secret thrift?

 The mysterious company refuses to reveal their owners and hoards a tremendous amount of foreign currency. Insights from german newspaper WELT in this curious business.

Only now and then does the Russian oil company Surgutneftegaz make a name for itself. But then all of a sudden and quite sensational, to remind everyone again, as it were, that he does exist after all. Most recently in mid-November of this year. The stock soared 49 percent in three days. That would be extreme for a young company that has become the plaything of speculative investors. And it is even more so with a traditional company.

But Surgutneftegaz with its 111,800 employees is no ordinary case. The group, which accounts for eleven percent of all Russian oil production and seven percent of oil processing, is different. Although the third largest oil company in the country, it still poses great puzzles to this day.

The biggest: Why is Surgutneftegaz, based in the West Siberian lowlands on the Ob River, hoarding so much free money? And on foreign exchange accounts, which at least bring stable interest income and thus contribute a whopping 20 percent to earnings before taxes and over 40 percent to free cash flow.

The bottom line is now 3.8 trillion rubles (46 billion euros). That is 82.5 billion rubles more than at the end of the second quarter. Certainly, compared to a US technology company like Apple, that's just a quarter. But within Russia and within the classic industrial sector also across Europe, there is hardly any company that could even come close to Surgutneftegaz in this respect.

For the market and its experts, it is and remains largely incomprehensible what this financial behavior and this strategy are actually supposed to be. All the more so since the group - apart from the quarterly company figures, to which it is obliged due to the stock exchange listing - discloses almost no information about itself.

The analysts of the Russian investment company BKS recently stated succinctly in a comment for the business portal RBK.

A few years ago, Vladimir Bogdanov, who took over the management of the once state oil company at the age of 33 at the time of the Soviet perestroika in 1984 and retained it after its privatization in 1993 together with his manager colleagues, once suggested that the reason for the - almost obsessive - frugality lay in the extreme hardship of the 1990s.

“This money is a security mechanism,” the now 70-year-old replied to a question at a shareholders' meeting. “Nobody knows what will happen to the oil price. We need the money so that our workforce can live quietly. Because what will we do if a situation like 1998 occurs again? ”At that time, the ruble crash caused turmoil.

Bogdanov is estimated by Forbes magazine to have a fortune of two billion dollars and is also called the "Siberian hermit" because of his seclusion and media aversion.

“This money is a security mechanism,” the now 70-year-old replied to a question at a shareholders' meeting. “Nobody knows what will happen to the oil price. We need the money so that our workforce can live quietly. Because what will we do if a situation like 1998 occurs again? ”At that time, the ruble crash caused turmoil.

Bogdanov is estimated by Forbes magazine to have a fortune of two billion dollars and is also called the "Siberian hermit" because of his seclusion and media aversion.

Accordingly, Bogdanov's statement, which is supposed to come across as sympathetic, is anything but plausible for the market. Let alone satisfying.

Over the years, the "hermit" Bogdanov, who like many top Russian business representatives and politicians has been on the US sanctions list since 2018, has managed to disguise the real owners of Surgutneftegaz despite being listed on the stock exchange.

Even in 2009, when the group bought 21.1 percent of the Hungarian gas company Mol in its only attempt to expand abroad and Mol demanded disclosure of the real owners, Bogdanow remained tough: he simply gave up his involvement with Mol after a short time.

All of this has led to a lot of speculation and conflicting information over the years. The group itself stated in 2005 that 15.7 percent of the shares were held by ING-Bank and 7.7 percent by the International Bank of Moscow.

The Moscow political scientist Stanislaw Belkowskij leaned furthest in his speculations, and he said in an interview with WELT at the end of 2007: “Putin is also a great businessman. He controls 37 percent of the shares in Surgutneftegaz ”.

This assessment is largely correct, according to the British magazine "Times" once confirmed by the US secret service CIA under US President George Bush. Putin himself, on the other hand, made it clear in the meantime that many of the shares in Surgutneftegaz are simply held by the people who work there.

Nobody believes that the oil company really leads its own life and is not close to the Kremlin. On the one hand, the oil trader Gunvor, who was half held for a long time by Putin's Petersburg intimate and businessman Gennady Timchenko, owes its establishment to its proximity to Surgutneftegaz.

On the other hand, there has always been a strict ban in Russia's financial circles on using financial instruments such as derivatives on the Surgutneftegaz share, WELT learned some time ago from an investment banker with an assurance of anonymity. This shows that the company is something special for the Russian rulers and that it is controlled from the very top.

So the public didn't really get any further on the subject of ownership over the years. And the fact mentioned at the beginning that the Surgutneftegaz share suddenly went through the roof in November and the daily trading volume in Moscow meanwhile rose a whopping 3900 percent, while the overall market fell in double digits in November, was not clarified.

There is talk in the Moscow investment scene that Surgutneftegaz could participate in a major acquisition or merger with his fat financial pillow. Such speculation is not new, of course. There was a rumor once before that Surgutneftegaz could swallow the second largest and private Russian oil company Lukoil - the epitome of transparency compared to Surgutneftegaz. The share soared back then too. But both companies denied it.

Another explanation for the stock's jump in November is that the ruble fell over five percent against the dollar in November, and the subsequent revaluation of Surgutneftegaz's foreign exchange accounts suggests an increase in corporate earnings.

In the first nine months of the year, sales were positive, but the bottom line was that profits fell by two thirds to 297 billion rubles (3.6 billion euros), which was partly due to the relative strength of the ruble, which was unfavorable for the company.

The company's shares could rise 400 percent if it finally implemented a substantial reform in its corporate governance, wrote Ronald P. Smith, oil and gas analyst at BCS Global Markets in Moscow, recently. The curiosity is that the market capitalization of the group is only half as high as the fat financial pillow on the accounts.

The three reforms mentioned by Smith include, on the one hand, shifting the notorious financial cushion into more lucrative asset classes or distributing it, and on the other hand, bringing order to the rumored “phantom” of high state participation.

Monday, December 27, 2021

Nord Stream 2: ukrainian CEO of Naftogaz wary of russian intentions

 After the change of government in Germany, ukrainian officials await if there is a new approach concerning the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. However for Naftogaz-CEO Yuri Vitrenko there is no change to expect from Russia. An interview with german newspaper BILD:

The traffic light-coalition is arguing about a contaminated legacy from Merkel and Groko days: the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline.

▶ ︎ The Greens want to prevent it, see it as a political project by the Kremlin to blackmail Eastern Europe and especially Ukraine.

▶ ︎ The SPD is traditionally in favor of the project in which its ex-boss Gerhard Schröder is the boss.

Apart from Germany and Austria, nobody in the EU is in favor of the Gazprom pipeline. And Ukraine in particular, which has hitherto been the main transit country for Kremlin gas, warns.

BILD spoke to Yuriy Vitrenko (45), the head of the Ukrainian state gas company Naftogaz.

Thursday, December 23, 2021

Gas crisis: American LNG coming to Europe

 As european countries struggle with high energy prices along with empty gas reservoirs, Cheniere Energy is sending providential LNG tankers to Europe. Gas prices drop, writes WELT:

Is it the spirit of Christmas or the invisible hand of the market? The fill levels in German and European gas storage facilities are at an all-time low, energy prices jump to new, alarming record levels every day - a fleet of American gas tankers appears on the western horizon as a savior in an emergency to alleviate Europe's energy poverty.

What sounds like a Christmas fairy tale is reality: According to information from the Bloomberg news agency, at least ten tankers with liquefied gas are on their way to Europe. "Another 20 ships seem to be crossing the Atlantic, but have not yet announced their final destination," report the market watchers. "The US cargoes will help offset the lower shipments from Russia, Europe's main supplier."

is it the spirit of Christmas or the invisible hand of the market? The fill levels in German and European gas storage facilities are at an all-time low, energy prices jump to new, alarming record levels every day - a fleet of American gas tankers appears on the western horizon as a savior in an emergency to alleviate Europe's energy poverty.

Germany: will the coal phase-out lead to a gypsum shortage?

 While the conversion of coal into electricity is about to be phased out a considerable byeffect has to be considered: gypsum is an important byproduct of coal power plants that is extracted by flue-gas desulfurization (FGD). Experts caution about a foreseeable lack of gypsum which is widely used in construction, writes WELT:

There is broad social and political consensus on phasing out coal-fired power generation. Hopefully, we will still find out where the electricity will come from on windless winter nights. But another substance will also become scarce when the coal-fired power plants go out of operation: gypsum.

So far largely overlooked by the general public, it is becoming clear that the white universal building material will slip into a supply gap by the 1930s at the latest. Because today more than half of the material - exactly 55 percent in Germany - comes from flue gas desulphurisation plants (FGD). These amounts will no longer apply in the future.

It will be difficult to do without, because gypsum is almost a kind of miracle material: it can be shaped in any way, moisture-regulating, non-flammable, infinitely recyclable, mineral. It's found in countless uses. Only rarely in medicine, where for bone fractures instead of the legendary plaster leg, other solutions with plastic splints are often used.

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Gas prices: reflections about Russia as the main supply source

 French newspaper Le Monde reflects about the strategic options of the Bloc concerning gas supply in the light of skyrocketing energy prices and the clatter of boots at the border to Ukraine:

Europe is entering winter, and the question is no longer whether it will have gas to heat itself and run the factories, but at what price. It has flared up in recent weeks and costs six times more than a year ago. The bill for individuals and manufacturers will be heavy in 2022. The functioning of the European market lends itself to this, as does the economic context: demand is strong during this season, activity remains strong despite the threat of the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV -2, storage is at a very low level (63%) and the unexpected shutdown of French nuclear power plants is increasing tensions.

If there were just that ... Gas prices, and by extension electricity prices, are also trending against the backdrop of Russian boots on Ukraine's eastern borders. Russia supplies a third of the European Union (EU) gas. This share, greater than that of Norway and Algeria combined, puts Vladimir Putin in a strong position to derive double benefit, financial and political, from the situation. The Russian president has been playing this market power for months by asking Gazprom not to export more than expected by its contracts with European customers.

Germany: coal beats wind power in 2021

 The energetic balance for 2021 reveals that fossile fuels were able to increase their output compared to renewables, writes WELT:

The climate politicians of the traffic-light-coalition have bad timing. They had only just decided to bring the coal phase out to 2030, when the frowned upon electricity producers are once again demonstrating their importance for the energy supply with all their might.

Lignite power plants produced 18 percent more electricity in 2021 than in the previous year, while hard coal power plants even increased their output by almost 27 percent. This is what it says in the annual balance sheet that the Federal Association of Energy and Water Management (BDEW) has now published.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Germany: Russia curbs gas supply; retaliation for murder verdict?

 No more gas is flowing from Russia via Belarus to Germany since sunday. Some experts see this as an expression of disapproval by the Kremlin for the murder verdict against the russian hitman that killed a chechen individual in Berlin in 2019 and the restive attitude of newly appointed foreign minister Annalena Baerbock, writes BILD:

He did it again!

Russian President Vladimir Putin (69) has turned off the gas. Since Sunday, no more Russian gas has flowed to Germany via Belarus and Poland.

▶ ︎ “For commercial reasons”, as they say from Moscow, but experts see a different reason for turning the gas tap on again in the direction of the Federal Republic of Germany.

The Poles were the first to notice last Friday that something was wrong with the gas deliveries via the Yamal pipeline of the Russian state-owned company Gazprom. At around 5 a.m., the pressure in the pipeline dropped, initially by only about ten percent, and then by another 90 percent on Saturday morning.

EU: conservative lawmakers warn Commission President unfulfillable energy requirements

 As the decision about the "green character" of different energy sources is scrutinized, conservative lawmakers caution European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen that some requirements might be unrealizable and thus damage companies and strain consumers, writes WELT:

The argument has been smoldering for months, but Ursula von der Leyen wants to end it soon. The European Commission will shortly decide whether it will classify nuclear power and natural gas as sustainable in the future - and under what conditions.

Before the final spurt in Brussels, MEPs warn that companies and consumers in many European countries could suffer the wrong decision. They fear that excessively strict requirements from Brussels could ensure that the energy supply is at risk, that energy prices remain high in the long term - and that the energy transition could fail on top of that.

That is the tenor of a letter that 22 MPs from eleven countries sent to von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, on Friday. “We remain convinced that Europe must make the transition to climate neutrality realistic, responsible and appropriate; especially when it comes to the specific needs of small and medium-sized companies, ”says the letter initiated by CDU member Markus Pieper. The unpublished letter is available to WELT.

Friday, December 17, 2021

Nord Stream 2: operator ramps up pressure, fills pipeline with gas

 Despite the fact that the controversial pipeline still doesn't have the necessary operating licence, the pipeline is being flooded with gas "to establish the necessary line pressure", as the operating company puts it, writes WELT:

The operating company of the controversial Baltic Sea pipeline Nord Stream 2 started filling the second line on Friday. According to the company, this is intended to build up the technical line pressure required for the gas flow.

“The pre-commissioning work on the second line was successfully completed to ensure the integrity of the pipeline,” explained the Swiss-based subsidiary of the Russian state monopoly Gazprom. The pipeline was "built in accordance with applicable technical and industrial standards and independently certified".

The early filling of the pipelines at a time of extremely high gas prices is surprising, as the operating license for the pipeline will still be months away. The Federal Network Agency (BNetzA) had suspended the approval process for pipeline operation for the time being because Gazprom had not yet implemented the formal conditions of the European gas directive.

According to the European competition rules, the owner and user of a line monopoly must not be identical. Gazprom must therefore set up an operating company that is formally and personally independent in accordance with the German legal form in order to meet this requirement. Only then can the certification of the gas pipe be completed.

Gazprom is working on the implementation. But decisions will probably "not be made in the first half of the year", said the President of the Federal Network Agency, Jochen Homann, with a view to 2022. The process will continue as soon as the necessary documents are submitted in such a way that "they can be checked" - but that alone has Nord Stream 2 AG in hand.

The BNetzA is under political pressure from various sides. Opponents of the project, including the USA, are demanding that the federal government not allow the line to go into operation for geopolitical reasons. Several EU countries are also calling on Germany to use the pipeline in the Ukraine conflict as a means of pressure against Russia.

Supporters of the pipeline project therefore suspect that the approval process of the Federal Network Agency could drag on longer than is actually necessary due to this political pressure. Some want to see the formulation of the BNetzA president as an indication that time leeway should be used to the maximum. Homann had pointed out that after the examination by the BNetzA, the whole thing would still go to the European Commission. This has "a lot of time to deal with it again".

If Gazprom is already filling the pipeline between St. Petersburg and Greifswald with gas, that could - intentionally or only as a welcome side effect - exert counter pressure on the licensing authority. Because gas prices in Germany and Europe are currently at a record level. In addition, a physical shortage of gas cannot be ruled out for industrial companies and power plant operators.

Operators of gas power plants in Germany are already warning of the increased risk of business interruptions due to a lack of gas deliveries this winter. The industry association “Trading Hub Europe” (THE), which is responsible for the gas supply, is also trying to organize additional gas volumes especially for Bavaria for February by means of a “special tender”.

If there were physical supply bottlenecks in Germany in the event of an extremely cold and long winter, politicians could come under pressure to justify why gas volumes from Nord Stream 2 are not used that are already physically available at the landing point Greifsland on German territory.

How sensitive the gas market is with regard to the politically sensitive supply situation was shown recently by reactions to a statement by the Federal Foreign Minister. Annalena Baerbock (Greens) had pointed out that "as things stand, this pipeline cannot be approved because it does not meet the requirements of European energy law." Market participants and media representatives misinterpreted as a political declaration of intent.

As a result, gas prices in European wholesale rose significantly over several days. Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) only pointed out at the end of this week that Baerbock's statements had been misunderstood: The commissioning of the pipeline was not a political question, Scholz made clear: For commissioning, compliance with European law was only required in one sub-aspect clear up. "An authority in Germany decides on this quite apolitically."

Germany: EU plans thwart Germany's energy shift

 EU guidelines with very strict precepts on gas power plants could lead Germany to extend the operating time of coal power plants the government wanted to give up by 2030, reports WELT:

The new federal government would like to "ideally" bring the coal phase-out in Germany forward from 2038 to 2030. But the traffic light coalition partners encounter immense problems right at the beginning of their project. In addition to the even declining production of renewable energies, new specifications from Brussels threaten to make it more difficult to achieve the targets.

The starting position for the planned energy transition turbo of the new federal government deteriorated considerably on Wednesday: According to the latest figures from the German Association of Energy and Water Management (BDEW), the goal of achieving 80 percent green electricity in Germany by 2030 has become little more unrealistic. Accordingly, the share of renewable energies in gross electricity consumption has even shrunk from 46 percent to 42 percent this year. The main reason for this was poor wind conditions.

It is therefore ruled out in specialist circles that renewable energies can replace the capacities of coal and nuclear power that will be lost in the near future. Almost every study on the achievement of the German energy transition targets assumes that gas-fired power plants will have to be built to a considerable extent by 2030 in order to be able to temporarily close the electricity gap.

Germany: chancellor Scholz on Nord Stream 2 and nuclear power

 Newly appointed chancellor Olaf Scholz refused in a speech to interconnect the question of the operating licence of contentious pipeline Nord Stream 2 and the tense situation in Ukraine. Nord Stream 2 is a purely commercial project, he said. He disagreed with french President Macron about the future of nuclear. He pointed out that Germany has other energetical models. 

Source WELT:

Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) has spoken out against combining the operating license for the controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline with efforts to de-escalate the Ukraine crisis. “With regard to Nord Stream 2, it is a private-sector project,” he said on Friday night after the EU summit in Brussels.

For commissioning, compliance with European law has to be clarified in one aspect. "An authority in Germany decides on this quite apolitically," emphasized the SPD politician. This is "a different question" than the current efforts to prevent a violation of the Ukrainian borders.

The Baltic Sea pipeline from Russia to Germany was completed weeks ago. The Federal Network Agency decides on the operating permit. The pipeline has long been criticized by the US, but also by some EU countries. They fear that they are too dependent on Russia for energy supplies.

At its summit, the EU unanimously threatened Russia with retaliation in the event of an attack on Ukraine. In a joint statement by the heads of state and government, Russia urgently needs to defuse the tensions caused by the deployment of troops on the border with Ukraine and aggressive rhetoric. Any further military aggression will have "massive consequences and high costs".

Friday, December 10, 2021

Battery technology: australian start-up Vulcan Energy buys German geothermal power station

 Source Der Spiegel:

The Australian lithium start-up Vulcan Energy is pushing ahead with its plans to extract the element that is important for battery production in Germany. Vulcan's German subsidiary is buying a geothermal power plant in the Upper Rhine Valley for around 31.5 million euros. As the company announced, it will take over the power plant from the regional energy supplier Pfalzwerke. A first pilot plant for the production of lithium hydroxide is to be put into test operation at the geothermal power plant in Insheim in the Palatinate.

Vulcan is working on the supply of lithium to Volkswagen and other European automakers such as Opel parent company Stellantis. You have already placed orders because lithium is needed in the manufacture of batteries for electric cars. From the point of view of experts, however, the company still has to prove that its idea for lithium extraction actually works financially lucrative enough on a large industrial scale.

Nord Stream 2: Biden administration piles pressure on new german government

 The US government is losing patience with german officials who - to date - do not want to commit to a dropping of the contentious pipeline in case of a russian aggression against Ukraine. From the US viewpoint it remains to be if newly appointed foreign secretary Annalena Baerbock gets her way and if new german chancellor Olaf Scholz can preserve his independence towards the general position of his social-democratic party who supports this project, writes WELT:

Seldom has a Chancellor found himself caught between two superpowers so quickly. Not only congratulations for Olaf Scholz (SPD) came from Washington and Moscow, but also tangible pressure. The US wants to deter Russia from invading Ukraine - and, parallel to Scholz's inauguration, made it clear that they consider the federal government to be part of the problem.

"We have had intensive discussions with both the outgoing and the new German government about the issue of Nord Stream 2 in connection with a possible invasion," said US President Joe Biden's national security advisor, Jake Sullivan. "If Vladimir Putin wants gas to flow through this pipeline, he may not want to take the risk of invading Ukraine."

The message: If Putin attacks Ukraine, Berlin must stop the German-Russian pipeline. The US is fed up with Germany's geostrategic ghost ride. Putin had tightened Russia's course against Europe over two decades - but the German chancellors stuck to the billion-dollar pipeline project.

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Nord Stream 2: discord on sanctions against Nord Stream 2 blocks US defense budget

 Congressmen of the republican party have blocked the decision on the defense budget over the question of further sanctions against the pipeline operator and connected companies, writes BILD:

In Washington, the conflict over sanctions against the Nord Stream 2 pipeline in the Baltic Sea is coming to a head. That has now contributed to the temporary blockade of the US defense budget for the coming year.

The Republicans in the US Senate prevented a vote on the Defense Budget (NDAA) package on Monday evening (local time) using procedural rules. The Republican minority leader, Mitch McConnell, justified the move with the fact that the Democrats refused to include a change in the law on Nord Stream 2 in the package. After the change, US President Joe Biden will no longer have the option of exempting US sanctions due to Nord Stream 2 for reasons of national security.

Friday, November 26, 2021

Germany: how to save the remaining six nuclear power plants

In the face of the imminent shutdown of three german nuclear plants in january 2022 and the switch-off of the remaining three plants in 2023, experts contemplate how to save them in order to meet the climate goals and also preserve energy security for Germany, writes WELT:

Time is running out. In a good eight weeks, three of the last six German nuclear power plants will be shut down, and the rest will follow in 14 months. That is more than all solar systems installed since the beginning of the energy transition provide. What is switched off there has so far contributed to clean electricity generation in Germany about as much as 15,000 of the total of 30,000 wind turbines.

A gigatonne of CO2 could be saved if the reactors were to continue to operate, have calculated technology-oriented climate protection associations such as “Öko-Moderne e.V.”. Such organizations have come together to form the “saveger6” initiative, an abbreviation for “save Germany’s six”, to “rescue” the last six German nuclear power plants.

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Nord Stream 2: operating licence denied

 Bad news for Gazprom. German Federal Network Agency (Bundesagentur) has denied the operating licence on the motive that the operating company must be organised according to german law. Nord Stream 2's operating company however is a company registered in Switzerland under swiss law. Read more in BILD:

Not a good day for Kremlin leader Vladimir Putin (69) and his gas manager Gerhard Schröder (77, Gazprom / Nord Stream, Rosneft): The Federal Network Agency is temporarily stopping the approval process (certification) for the second Baltic Sea pipeline Nord Stream 2!

► No operating license without certification!

► No gas transport without the permit!

Not a good day for Kremlin leader Vladimir Putin (69) and his gas manager Gerhard Schröder (77, Gazprom / Nord Stream, Rosneft): The Federal Network Agency is temporarily stopping the approval process (certification) for the second Baltic Sea pipeline Nord Stream 2!

► No operating license without certification!

► No gas transport without the permit!

Nord Stream (main owner: Gazprom) now wants to found a new German subsidiary that will then operate the German part.

Basic problem for Nord Stream: Even if Germany allows the tube, the EU has the last word! And there is considerable doubt that Nord Stream 2 complies with EU law. Because according to the EU Energy Directive, line operators and energy suppliers cannot be in one hand. In the case of Nord Stream 2, however, both are in the hands of the Kremlin group Gazprom. The network agency has until January 8th to make a decision.

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

France: government projects construction of new EPR nuclear reactors

 After the report of french  transmission system operator Réseau de transport d'électricité (RTE) on October 25th 2021 with different scenarios on the energy consumption and the energy mix in France, president Emmanuel Macron has made the decision to build new nuclear reactors to safeguard the energetical independence of France and to reach the climate goals that the frenche government has committed itself to, writes frenche newspaper Le Monde:

The main presidential candidates had already spoken out for or against the construction of new reactors. Five months before the election, Emmanuel Macron - who has not yet declared himself - has in turn formalized his position in favor of relaunching the nuclear program. The head of state announced Tuesday, November 9, his decision to "relaunch the construction of reactors in our country" while continuing to "develop renewable energies". The project aims to "guarantee the energy independence of France (...), the electricity supply of our country and achieve our objectives, in particular carbon neutrality in 2050", he argued on the occasion. a televised address on the general situation of the country.

The announcement remains vague, however: no date has been given for the start of work, and the number of reactors envisaged has not been specified. Since 2019, however, the government has been considering a specific hypothesis: the construction of six new third generation reactors of very high power, known as “EPR 2”. The energy company EDF submitted a report to this effect in May at the request of the State, its main shareholder.

The launch of a new nuclear program would be a first for France "in decades", stressed Emmanuel Macron. Most of today's reactors were built at high speed, from the mid-1970s to the early 1990s. The country now has fifty-six reactors, which already guarantee low-carbon electricity production. But this park is aging, with many facilities approaching or reaching the age of 40. Within twenty years, a majority of them should have ceased to function for reasons of obsolescence and safety.

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Nord Stream 2: gas shortage and uncertainty about Gazprom's plans

 While russian president Vladimir Putin ordered the gas producers to fill the gas reservoirs in Germany and Austria the concrete results are long time in the coming. This behaviour confirms some observers that this move is destined to coerce german authorities to issue the operating licence to Nord Stream 2. Read more in this WELT article

The energy consumers in Germany have to wait for the announced additional natural gas from Russia. Data from the network operator Gascade shows that in Mallnow, Brandenburg on the Polish border, where the Yamal pipeline from Siberia arrives, no Russian natural gas arrived at all by Monday evening, reports "Spiegel".

The Russian newspaper "Kommersant" also confirmed that Russian gas deliveries have so far only increased slightly. “Gazprom has started at a very moderate pace to implement Vladimir Putin's order to replenish European storage facilities from November 8th. Even though the company has pumped gas into the storage facilities again in the past few days, it has not significantly increased deliveries via Ukraine and has not yet resumed transport through the Yamal-Europe gas pipeline. "

After months of the energy crisis, gas customers in Europe were actually hoping for additional energy supplies from Russia as of the month of the month. It has been almost two weeks since Russian President Vladimir Putin, under pressure from rising prices and poorly filled storage facilities, instructed the state gas giant Gazprom to replenish the reserves in Germany and Austria. First the domestic supplies should be replenished. But then Gazprom should also open the valves for Europe further.

Russia's state media cheered that Putin was the “savior in the gas crisis” and was protecting the EU from the cold shock. On Monday, a spokesman for Putin confirmed that the order was in place for Gazprom to deliver more than the agreed mandatory quantities after November 8th. Ukraine, meanwhile, reported an increase in transit to Europe compared to the past few days. Accordingly, the daily amount rose to 88 million cubic meters of gas, most recently it was around 60 million cubic meters. There was initially no reaction from Gazprom.

The Federal Association of Energy and Water Industries had also welcomed Moscow's announcement. At the end of October, according to the association, the plants supplied by Gazprom in Germany were only 21 percent full, below average compared to other gas storage facilities.

Meanwhile, there is still great anger in Russia over allegations that the country is driving up prices by withholding gas. As Russia's most important woman in gas exports, Jelena Burmistrowa has just decidedly rejected responsibility for the energy crisis on the international stage. At a conference in Amsterdam earlier this month, the head of Gazprom-Export said anyone who “speculates about Gazprom's malicious acts” is far from reality.

Russia kept pointing out that there was a gas crisis around the world. The reasons lie in the recovery of the economy after the restrictions caused by the pandemic. There is a hunger for energy, especially in Asia. Last but not least, the US would have preferred to deliver additional liquefied gas there and not to Europe, said Burmistrowa.

Kremlin chief Putin had accused the Europeans of neglecting to properly fill their gas storage facilities after a cold winter. To make matters worse, because of the slack wind in the North Sea, the wind turbines produced less electricity there. More gas had to be converted into electricity. This also reduced storage reserves.

Nonetheless, Russia found itself exposed to political accusations in Germany and other EU countries that deliveries were in short supply in order to bring about the rapid commissioning of the finished Nord Stream 2 pipeline in the Baltic Sea. The Kremlin urged that Nord Stream 2 could ease the situation. But Moscow also stressed that regardless of this, all agreed quantities would be delivered. Customers in the West also confirmed that Russia delivers reliably.

It is not at all disputed that the raw materials giant is fulfilling its contracts. Rather, the point of contention is whether Russia is really doing everything it can to deliver additional quantities. Putin himself made it clear that there were limits for him. For example, Gazprom wants to do without Ukraine, which has long been the most important transit country for Russian gas deliveries to Europe.

The route through Ukraine is longer and therefore more expensive; In addition, the Ukrainian transmission network was ailing and could not withstand the higher pressure from the transit, explained Putin. Ukraine's offers to lower the fees came to nothing. The impoverished country urgently needs the income from transit.

As Vice President of Gazprom, Burmistrowa also stated at the Amsterdam conference that Russia was not interested in extremely high gas prices. The “record prices” could accelerate the transition to renewable energies in the EU. The huge empire, which is dependent on petrodollars, wants to earn money for its national budget with fossil fuels for a long time to come.

Putin spoke out several times in favor of a return to long-term contracts, because this would give Russia planning security for the development of new deposits. The gas price should therefore be linked to that for oil. Russia is also increasingly producing liquefied gas and can therefore react more quickly to acute situations. "In contrast to the flexible suppliers of liquefied gas, we are firmly bound to Europe through our pipeline system," said Burmistrowa.

The fact that the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which was built for more than ten billion euros, has not yet been released for operation only triggers uncomprehending shaking of the head in Russia. 55 billion cubic meters of gas per year should flow to Europe in the future. A start date is not in sight.

Meanwhile, the Russians emphasize that in view of the gas crisis they have already delivered more than agreed. Exports to Germany alone increased by 30 percent in the first nine and a half months compared to the same period in the previous year, it said. Germany is the largest Gazprom customer in the EU. The country bought around 46 billion cubic meters of gas from Russia in 2020 - around a third of all consumption in Germany. Still, that's not enough.

However, there is no threat of a collapse in supply. Analysts believe that the storage facilities in Europe are still filled with around 82 billion cubic meters or 76 percent of active gas. That is about 15 percentage points less than the average for the past five years. The Gazprom storage facilities in Germany and Austria, the CEO Alexej Miller admitted during an interview with Putin, had hardly any gas left.

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

EU: France and Germany strike deal on future usage of nuclear in Europe

 In an emergency summit of EU- energy secretaries, which was convened to work out responses to the high energy prices the participants agreed that nuclear will still be part of the european energy mix. The french government got its way against detractors of nuclear energy in other goverment of the Bloc writes WELT:

The subject was not on the agenda, but the advocates of nuclear power did not allow themselves to be dissuaded. At the emergency summit of the EU energy ministers, a show event at which the high energy prices should be publicized, the camp of the pro-nuclear countries spoke up anyway.

"Many delegations" have demanded that Brussels take a quick position on nuclear power, said the Slovenian Minister of Infrastructure Jernej Vrtovec on Tuesday afternoon after the meeting.

Nord Stream 2: deadline for application for operating licence exceeded

After completion of the pipeline in September 2021 the project stills lacks the required operating licence. This constitutes an obstacle for the startup procedure of the pipeline because the deadline for application at the Federal Network Agency of Germany (Bundesnetzagentur) was march 3rd 2013 as stipulated in the german Energy Industry Act (Energiewirtschaftsgesetz). However the application for Nord Stream 2 arrived on June 24 2021. Lawyers are at strife on how to deal with this issue, writes BILD:

New problems for the Putin pipeline Nord Stream 2!

Completely built, but still without an operating license and without certification, the billion-dollar pipeline lies in the Baltic Sea. In order to change that and soon Russia's gas will flow through the pipe, Nord Stream 2 AG, based in Switzerland, submitted an application to the Federal Network Agency on June 24th for “certification as an independent transmission system operator”.

In its application for certification, Nord Stream 2 AG refers to the German Energy Industry Act (EnWG), which is the only possible legal basis for certification in Germany. But this is exactly where the problem lies.

Because in Article 4b, paragraph 1 of the law: "Transport network operators (...) must submit the application for certification to the regulatory authority by March 3, 2013 at the latest."

Monday, October 25, 2021

France: transmission system operator publishes study on energy sources by 2050

 French transmission system operator Réseau de transport d'électricité (RTE) has published a strategy with different scenarios on energy consumption in France and the required energy sources for the coming decades until 2050, writes Le Monde:

It is an understatement to say that this work was expected, and that it will be commented on. The national manager of the Electricity Transmission Network (RTE) published on Monday, October 25, the main findings of a vast study aimed at defining the future of the French electricity system. Launched in 2019 at the request of the government, this forward-looking exercise entitled "Energy Futures 2050" sets out six scenarios that are supposed to make it possible to achieve carbon neutrality within thirty years, and therefore to fight against climate change.

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Nord Stream 2: german politicians blame chancellor Merkel for high energy prices

 Several politicians blamed the hiking energy on Merkel's inactivity and naivity in dealing with russian president Putin, thus enabling him to blackmail Europeans with gas prices, writes german newspaper BILD

The signs couldn't have been clearer.

For years, experts and politicians, who know how Russia repeatedly uses energy as a weapon, have warned that the new Nord Stream 2 pipeline in the Baltic Sea will come with a political price. Not only for Ukraine, but above all for Germany.

Doubling the Russian-German gas transport capacity by bypassing all European partners would not result in a diversification of the sources of supply, as Chancellor Merkel and her foreign and economic ministers have been claiming for years. Instead, it creates one-sided dependencies, gives Putin influence over German politics and, above all, the power to freeze ourselves and others if we don't play by his rules.

But Angela Merkel (67) ignored all warnings.

Even when the completion of Nord Stream 2 was about to begin in the summer and Putin began to implement his plan, Merkel did what she did so often in crisis situations over the years - nothing.

► Nothing happened when Russia's state gas giant Gazprom announced in June that from October it would only feed half as much gas into the “Yamal” pipe via Belarus and Poland.

► Nothing happened when Gazprom announced in August that it would also drastically reduce additional bookings through Ukraine from October.

► Even when the Kremlin announced just one week after the completion of the Baltic Sea pipeline in September that “the fastest possible commissioning of Nord Stream 2 would of course compensate for natural gas prices in Europe”, Merkel did nothing to avert the impending catastrophe at the last second .

Today gas at the European trading point in the Netherlands costs twice as much as when the extortion tube was completed five weeks ago, and Vladimir Putin only made it clear on Wednesday that without the commissioning of Nord Stream 2, "the tensions on the European energy market" would persist .

What threatens is an extremely expensive winter, for which experts hold the Chancellor partly responsible.

"Germany's precarious situation results from various wrong decisions by the governments under Ms. Merkel," says Ostpolitik expert Jan Behrends (51) from the Leibniz Center for Contemporary History in Potsdam. These include "the hasty nuclear phase-out, the construction of the Nord Stream pipelines and the failed policy on Russia," the Russia expert told BILD.

The Eastern Europe expert Renata Alt (56, FDP) also goes tough with the Chancellor in court.

She told BILD: “The current gas price explosion is not least due to the naivety of the two grand coalitions under Angela Merkel's chancellorship. Anyone who sows naivety in dealing with Vladimir Putin's system will reap dependency and an energy crisis. "

Alt further criticized the outgoing Chancellor: “For a project that has no added value for Germany, Ms. Merkel has jeopardized our relations with EU partners such as Poland and the Baltic states. There is nothing to explain this ingratiation to Russia and nothing to excuse. "

Germany: return to nuclear could reduce energy dependency from Russia

This is the assertion that french scholar Thierry Bros develops in a conversation with german newspaper BILD

“Putin is the only one who could prevent blackouts in Europe. That is a position of power. "

This simple but accurate statement by energy expert Professor Thierry Bros (54) from the University of Institut d’études politiques de Parisciences (Sciences Po) in the “Wall Street Journal” shows the whole misery of German energy policy! Whether for heating, power supply or gasoline - Germany is dependent on the Kremlin, because the strongest energy suppliers, the state-owned companies Gazprom and Rosneft, are at least indirectly controlled by Russia's head of state.

But how can Germany end the misery it has created itself?

BILD spoke to energy expert Thierry Bros about Germany's dependence on Russian gas and the most obvious way to rise from Putin's shadow - nuclear power, which is so frowned upon in this country, but which dominates in France.

BILD: Does Germany risk power outages if Berlin doesn't play by Putin's rules?

Thierry Bros: “Definitely! As a Frenchman, I would say that Germany is relying on a dangerous free ticket to the EU solidarity mechanism and, in the event of a large-scale power failure, will ask its neighbors to shut down their industries in order to provide emergency power for German households. "

BILD: Does Germany risk power outages if Berlin doesn't play by Putin's rules?

Thierry Bros: “Definitely! As a Frenchman, I would say that Germany is relying on a dangerous free ticket to the EU solidarity mechanism and, in the event of a large-scale power failure, will ask its neighbors to shut down their industries in order to provide emergency power for German households. "

How do we escape this addiction?

Bros: “The decommissioning of German nuclear power plants in 2011 led to more coal being burned from 2011 to 2014. If you shut down the last six plants now, more Russian gas would have to be burned, which is also crazy for the climate. Since there is no way to switch from nuclear power plants to renewable energies overnight, both the climate and the citizens would thank the next federal government if Germany postpones its nuclear power plant closings and reopens decommissioned safe nuclear power plants. "

Could that also reduce Putin's influence in Germany?

Bros: "Of course! The more energy is offered on the German market, the greater the competition. This leads to lower prices for German consumers and curtails Putin's power over German politics. "

Nord Stream 2: former chancellor Gerhard Schröder takes over Gazprom's narrative

 Former german chancellor Gerhard Schröder turned mouth-piece for Gazprom justifies the corporations policies. German newspaper BILD debunks the inacurracies:

Kremlin manager and ex-chancellor Gerhard Schröder (77) is again protecting the gas policy of his friend Vladimir Putin (69). And is, once again, clearly next to the (whole) truth:

► Schröder writes in the “Handelsblatt” that Russian gas exports to Germany increased by 40 percent in 2021.

Fact: Gazprom itself has only reported a 33.2 percent increase since January. And that in comparison to the Corona minus year 2020, in which all exports collapsed

► Schröder suggests that Asia's “increased demand” makes gas more expensive.

Fact: Russia uses other gas fields for China and could easily deliver more to Europe. The total gas exports from Russia to China this year corresponds roughly to the volume of exports to Hungary or Slovakia and is therefore hardly relevant for the price.

► Schröder claims that every new pipeline (Nord Stream 2) will dampen price increases.

It is true that the Kremlin hardly uses the existing gas pipes. Because of political reasons! In October 2021, only 43 percent of the possible capacity will come via Belarus and Poland, and only 29 percent via Ukraine.

"Gerhard Schröder, Putin's gas lobbyist, is doing what he is paid for again: In view of the gas price crisis, he is grumbling at the USA and releasing his boss in the Kremlin from any responsibility," Reinhard Bütikofer (68, Greens) told BILD. "In contrast, the head of the International Energy Agency, Fatih Birol, recently stressed that Russia could do more to combat this crisis."

Bütikofer continues: “It was to be expected that Gerhard Schröder would use the gas crisis to advertise Nord Stream 2. But he cannot really deny the Russian blackmail attempt. Because the gas that it promises via Nord Stream 2 could long ago come to us via existing pipelines - through Ukraine. But what do Schröder care about the facts? After all, he's paid as a lobbyist. "

China: energy savings decree cause magnesium shortage in Germany

 As previously reported, China's Dual Control of Energy Consumption decree forces magnesium producing facilities to phase down their activity, leading to a shortage of magnesium in the world. A severe blow for germany automotive industrie who depend heavily on this chemical element, writes german newspaper WELT:

On a Monday in mid-September in Yulin County, Fugu County, People's Republic of China, the county's "Development and Reform Commission" sent out a decree. Subject: "Double control of energy consumption."

In Germany, this inconspicuous arrangement by a distant authority triggers a nervous, almost panic-like reaction. The reason: the decree temporarily prevents magnesium deliveries to the Federal Republic.

The Federal Ministry of Economics and the Foreign Office in Berlin are now dealing with the events in the Chinese province. Because the Yulin Decree threatens the supply of raw materials to the entire metal industry at a particularly sensitive weak point. There is a threat of a production stop in large German plants before Christmas.

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

China: Power supply crunches menace supply chains

 CNN reports:

A growing power supply crunch in China is triggering blackouts for households and forcing factories to cut production, threatening to slow the country's vast economy and place even more strain on global supply chains.

Companies in the country's industrial heartlands have been told to limit their energy consumption in order to reduce demand for power, state media has reported. And supply has been cut to some homes, reportedly even trapping people in elevators.
An "unexpected and unprecedented" power cut hit three northeastern provinces on Monday, according to the Global Times, a state-run tabloid. The newspaper reported Tuesday that power rationing in Heilongjiang, Jilin and Liaoning provinces has "resulted in major disruptions to the daily lives of people and business operations."
    Power shortages have also hit the southern province of Guangdong, a major industrial and shipping hub. Local officials said Monday that many firms are trying to reduce demand by working two or three days per week.

    You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

    Fracking: review of Michael Patrick Smith's novel "The Good Hand" in The Atlantic

     The Atlantic offers a very interesting review of Michael Patrick F. Smith's novel "The Good Hand: A Memoir of Work, Brotherhood, and Transformation in an American Boomtown" about his experiences on a drilling field in Williston.

    "Two new books take us there. In The Good Hand: A Memoir of Work, Brotherhood, and Transformation in an American Boomtown, Michael Patrick F. Smith finds his checking account and personal demons intertwined with the oil industry. At the height of the Bakken Formation oil boom, in 2013, Smith left Brooklyn seeking what he imagined would be challenging but lucrative work in the oil fields. A playwright and musician raised amid poverty and domestic abuse in rural Maryland, he never quite felt at home in gentrified Brooklyn or at his Midtown Manhattan office job that paid the bills. This identity crisis, combined with a penchant for self-punishment previously pursued through drugs and sex, sent him west to see whether he might finally make a man of himself at 36.

    What he found in the now-infamous boomtown of Williston, North Dakota, was a cast of characters with even rougher pasts than his own. Smith’s memoir is about these men, who showed up from across the country and beyond to risk their lives on a windswept plain where the temperature might be 38 degrees below zero and the pay might be $20 an hour."

    You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

    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.