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Doubts as to whether Russia will pay more gas to Europe as promised

On Thursday, January 28, 2021, a worker repairs a pipeline valve at the Gosprom PJSC Slavinskaya compressor station, the starting point of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline in Ust-Luka, Russia.

Bloomberg | Bloomberg | Getty Images

LONDON – Winter has not yet come and Europe is already experiencing a gas market crisis with bumper demand and limited supply, which has prompted lower prices in the region.

So, when Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday proposed to increase Russia’s gas supplies to Europe, regional gas prices fell (up 500% so far this year) and markets sighed with relief.

As Russia waits, market analysts quickly suspect that the offer to increase supply to Europe is intended to pressure Germany to certify the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline (which carries Russian gas supplies to Germany via the Baltic Sea). It could take months for Germany’s energy regulator to approve the $ 11 billion pipeline.

Experts warn that Russia’s offer is increasingly affecting Europe’s ability to operate and shut down Moscow – and most importantly – the supply of gas at any time.

Analysts said that even though Russia’s apparent large size has given the gas markets little leeway, it is unlikely that even Russia can deliver on its promises to deliver more.

“Mr Putin’s comments appear to be somewhat comforting to the market. However, whether or not these additional gas supplies depend on Nordstream 2’s rapid approval will not be a key issue,” European analyst Adline Van Hout said in a statement on Thursday.

“Currently, the Russian domestic gas market is tight, its inventory is low, output is already nearing peak and winter is approaching in Russia, restricting gas export capacity,” he said.

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“There is little indication that Gosprom – Russia’s gas export pipeline monopoly, which supplies 35% of European gas needs – is trying to pay more for Europe’s spot buyers in existing ways. Gosprom is unlikely to supply more than 190bcm (billion cubic meters) to Europe this year,” he warned. “European prices are unlikely to cool significantly in 2021.”

Mike Fullwood, a senior researcher at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, doubted that Russia could already supply more gas to Europe, and production was already at record levels.

“Russia faced pressure from the same demand,” he noted.

“It was [a] Last winter was the coldest winter in Russia, and Russian production is actually at record levels, “he told CNBC’s” Squaw Box Europe. ” Last year it was good when demand was low, but it has risen to 2019 levels, and they had to replenish their own storage, which has fallen badly due to the cold weather. “

“So it is very doubtful whether they can provide more gas in any way,” he added.

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Russia’s credibility as an energy supplier to Europe has been high on the agenda for policymakers in the region and the United States for many years.

The last two US presidential administrations have spoken out against the construction of the Nortstream 2 project, warning that it would reduce Europe’s energy security and increase its dependence on Russia. For its part, the United States wants to export its own liquefied natural gas to Europe.

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‘They have the ability’

Pathi Birol, managing director of the International Energy Agency, firmly believed that Russia could boost gas supplies to Europe. To the Financial Times On Thursday, the IEA’s analysis suggested that Russia could raise exports by about 15% of the continent’s peak winter supply.

Calling on Russia to prove itself as a “reliable supplier”, Prowl said the gas exporter could live up to its word if he so desired.

“If Russia does what it pointed out yesterday [Wednesday] And increases volume for Europe, which will have a calming effect on the market, “he said.” I’m not saying they will do it, but they have the ability to do it if they want to. “