Missiles fly, but Ukraine’s pipeline network keeps Russian gas flowing to Europe

On the world stage, the phrases “power safety” immediate debates about diversifying provide and reducing reliance on unhealthy actors, however for Sergiy Makogon, their which means is extra literal: the best way to maintain the community of near 40,000 kilometres of pure fuel pipelines that crisscross his nation functioning in the midst of a battle.

On the day CBC spoke to him final week, the CEO of Ukraine’s Fuel Transmission System Operator was busy rerouting a pipeline close to the northern metropolis of Kharkiv that was simply hit by a missile and reassuring a number of staff at a compressor station seized by Moscow-backed separatist fighters in Japanese Ukraine. 

He was additionally struggling to determine a solution to get fuel to Mariupol, whose residents have been lower off from warmth and electrical energy since airstrikes broken a pipeline greater than a month in the past.

“This can be a humanitarian disaster proper now in Mariupol,” Makogon mentioned on the telephone from an undisclosed location in western Ukraine, w. he and his employees took refuge quickly after the beginning of the Russian invasion.

“We all know very effectively w. the pipeline is broken, however no person can assure for us the security of our personnel. This metropolis is totally blocked by Russian troops…. In order that’s why, sadly, we can’t restore the fuel provide.”

A resident of Mariupol cooks meals outdoors an condo constructing broken by airstrikes on April 3. The southern port metropolis has been with out warmth and electrical energy for greater than a month. (Stringer/Reuters)

Preventing in east threatens transit

Makogon’s crew is chargeable for the high-pressure pipelines that transport 40 billion cubic metres of pure fuel per 12 months to Europe.

The community is one hyperlink in a posh system of interdependence that retains the lights on in Europe and gives essential income for Russia. Specialists say it will not be straightforward to unravel however that it faces its best risk for the reason that West began importing giant quantities of fuel from the Soviet Union within the late Eighties.

“That system was created with nice satisfaction from each side,” mentioned Margarita Balmaceda, a professor of diplomacy and worldwide relations at Seton Corridor College in New Jersey and creator of a number of books on Russia’s affect within the power sector.

“Engineers, planners, managers had been actually excited to create a system … that lastly was capable of stand up to all of the political tensions over time, that would overcome the Iron Curtain.”

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine threatens to upend that precedent, she mentioned, as Europe seems to reduce its dependence on Russian fuel and Russia threatens to punish international locations that oppose the invasion through the use of their fuel contracts to prop up the ruble.

A map displaying a number of the primary pipeline routes between Russia and Europe. (CBC)

Whereas Europe’s focus has been on how the present disaster impacts its provide, the worldwide pipelines that transit Ukraine additionally have an effect on how fuel strikes by means of the native community Ukrainians depend on for warmth and electrical energy.

For the reason that Russian invasion started Feb. 25, shelling has damaged a number of pipelines, compressor stations and distribution factors alongside that interconnected system, mentioned Makogon.

“The vast majority of damages are associated to the low-pressure pipelines due to the very heavy combating within the cities or near the cities.” 

A person walks previous a burning fuel pipeline that was hit throughout shelling from Russian positions in northern Kharkiv on March 31. A number of pipelines, compressor stations and distribution factors have suffered harm since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24 (Thomas Peter/Reuters)

Thus far, aside from in Mariupol, operators have discovered alternate methods to ship fuel to broken areas, he mentioned, however he’s more and more nervous in regards to the compressor station in Novopskov. It lies on the route of the Soyuz pipeline that carries fuel to Europe by means of the breakaway area of Luhansk in Japanese Ukraine, w. combating has escalated in latest days.

Makogon warned final Friday that the fuel provide might be in danger if the fighters who’ve been occupying the station for the reason that begin of the invasion interfered with its operation.

“If we can’t function the station remotely … we must shut down the transit for that individual interconnection level,” he advised CBC. “We’re actually nervous about … all this space within the east.”

Russian state-owned firm Gazprom mentioned in an . to CBC that it was offering fuel for transit by means of Ukraine as typical and “in accordance with the requests of European customers.” 

Sergiy Makogon oversees the system of high-pressure pipelines that transport 40 billion cubic metres of pure fuel per 12 months to Europe by means of Ukraine. (Submitted by Sergiy Makogon)

‘Vitality air defence’

Ukraine is one in all 4 primary pipeline corridors by means of which Russian fuel flows to north, central and southern Europe, which collectively provide about 45 per cent of the fuel the EU imports. 

It does not import any fuel from Russia itself however will get about $100 million US a month for making certain it makes it to Europe. Extra importantly, Makogon mentioned, it ensures Russia can acquire the roughly $900 million a day it’s making from promoting fuel to Europe.

“We name it type of our power air defence,” he mentioned. “We imagine that so long as we’ve got a transit, the Russians wouldn’t intentionally destroy our infrastructure, and we can ship fuel to our native inhabitants.”


In the end, Ukraine wish to see Europe put a full embargo on Russian oil and fuel, however it realizes a gradual phase-out is extra possible, Makogon mentioned.

“We perceive that, sadly, Europe is just too depending on Russian fuel.” 

Russia, for its half, is in no hurry to chop off the income stream that Europe’s power calls for generate, Balmaceda mentioned. It made 99 billion euros ($136 billion Cdn) final 12 months from oil and fuel gross sales to the EU.

“The fact is that they want these sources of revenue,” she mentioned. 

Balmaceda mentioned t. have been only some instances Russia has used the disruption of provide as leverage: in 2006 and 2009 in value disputes with Ukraine and final fall, when it decreased fuel provides to place strain on European companions to expedite the certification of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline to Germany, which has now been suspended over Russia’s recognition of breakaway republics in Japanese Ukraine.

“They’ve actually labored on this concept of being a dependable provider,” Balmaceda, who can be an affiliate at Harvard College’s Davis Middle for Russian and Eurasian Research and on the Harvard Ukrainian Analysis Institute.

Whereas Gazprom mentioned in its . to CBC that it “continues to offer dependable fuel exports to customers,” it additionally mentioned it could be following by means of on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s order requiring “unfriendly” international locations to switch foreign-currency funds for Russian fuel into ruble accounts.

A Russian building employee speaks on a cellphone throughout a ceremony marking the beginning of building of the Nord Stream 1 pipeline in Portovaya Bay northwest of St. Petersburg, Russia, in April 2010. The pipeline carries pure fuel to Germany, which will get greater than 60 per cent of its fuel from Russia. (Dmitry Lovetsky/The Related Press)

Choices to increase east restricted

Whether or not Russia would lower off provide to those that do not comply is unclear, however Carlos Torres Diaz, an analyst with Rystad Vitality, an power market analysis firm in Oslo, says redirecting fuel to different markets wouldn’t be one thing Russia can do rapidly and simply. 

Russia has been increasing fuel exports to China in recent times, however it’s present pipeline to the area doesn’t hook up with the West Siberia and Yamal fuel fields w. Europe’s fuel comes from, so diverting that provide would require constructing new connections, growth tasks which can be in jeopardy due to sanctions imposed on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

“A number of this infrastructure was being developed along with Western corporations like Exxon, for instance, however they’re pulling out,” Torres Diaz mentioned. 

Europe, for its half, did take a step towards weaning itself off Russian power final week by banning imports of Russian coal beginning in August, however doing the identical for pure fuel could be a lot more durable, Torres Diaz mentioned.

A billboard close to Svobodny, within the Amur area of japanese Siberia, advertises Gazprom’s Energy of Siberia pipeline, which is a part of Russia’s plan to increase pure fuel exports to China. (Maxim Shemetov/Reuters)

EU seems to LNG, renewables

Diaz and different analysts say European international locations must scramble to construct up pure fuel shops for subsequent winter and attain the bold goal the European Fee (EC) has set of lowering Russian fuel imports by two-thirds by the top of the 12 months and phasing out all fossil gas imports from Russia by 2030.

Discovering a solution to exchange the 155 billion cubic metres of pure fuel a 12 months Europe imports from Russia will imply growing sources resembling liquified pure fuel, or LNG, which is transported by ship and regasified on the opposite finish.

Efforts to exchange piped fuel from Russia with LNG are constrained by current provide, nonetheless, a lot of which is tied up in long-term contracts. New tasks not anticipated to come back on-line till 2024 or 2025. 

“The foremost supply of elevated provides could be the U.S. as a result of that is one of many closest markets and likewise as a result of the U.S. has probably the most flexibility with LNG provides provided that not a lot of the quantity is offered to long-term contracts,” Torres Diaz mentioned.

Snow-covered switch strains are seen on the Dominion Cove Level liquefied pure fuel terminal in Lusby, Md. The U.S. has agreed to extend its provide of LNG to Europe to assist exchange Russian fuel. (Gary Cameron/Reuters)

Europe competes with Asia for the LNG accessible on the so-called spot market and whereas the latest document excessive costs make diverting it to Europe a horny possibility, that might not be the case subsequent winter, mentioned Anne-Sophie Corbeau, a Paris-based analysis scholar on the Middle on International Vitality Coverage at New York’s Columbia College. 

The U.S. did announce final week it could present a further 15 billion cubic metres of LNG to Europe by the top of 2022, however Corbeau estimates it could take 18 instances that to exchange all the piped fuel provide from Russia.

Speedy ramp-up wanted

The EU has capability to soak up about 50 billion cubic metres of LNG a 12 months, based on EC estimates, however ramping up quantity past that may require spending billions of euros constructing new terminals to re-gasify it and the infrastructure to distribute it.

It additionally comes with implications for Europe’s dedication to make big cuts in carbon and, particularly, methane emissions as LNG is power intensive and by some estimates has a bigger environmental footprint than piped fuel.

Beefing up capability past LNG can be a long-term proposition. Nuclear power remains to be one in all Europe’s largest sources of electrical energy, however constructing new energy crops would take years and is politically unpopular in elements of the EU, notably, Germany, which goals to part out nuclear energy by 2030.

“What would truly assistance is to not decommission the nuclear energy crops, however I imply, good luck with that,” Corbeau mentioned.

Cooling towers of the Temelin nuclear energy plant close to Tyn nad Vltavou, Czech Republic. Nuclear energy is a technique Europe may exchange Russian fuel, however it’s politically unpopular in some international locations. (Petr David Josek/The Related Press)

Biomethane, renewable hydrogen and different inexperienced power sources are a key a part of the EU’s plan to transition away from Russia however would require a fast growth of current commitments. 

“Photo voltaic and wind … will not be versatile sources, ” Torres Diaz mentioned. “They are going to be producing as a lot as they’ll. You can not actually enhance it from in the future to the opposite.” 

Changing the power from Russian fuel with wind, for instance, would require growing capability by 370 gigawatts, Corbeau estimates, far above the 17 GW Europe added last year

Wind generators close to Breuna, western Germany. Augmenting Europe’s wind energy capability would take time however is among the renewable power sources Europe is contemplating in its effort to lower reliance on Russian fuel. (Ina Fassbender/AFP/Getty Photos)

In the end, mentioned Corbeau, Europe will not be capable of keep away from doing the 2 issues it has resisted to this point: conserving and climbing power costs.

“I’m actually stunned … in regards to the absence of urgency and telling individuals, ‘You’ll want to scale back your consumption now,'” she mentioned. 

We’re in a disaster. We have to save power. Each single kilowatt hour of fuel electrical energy that you’re saving now’s going to assist us subsequent winter.”

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