Friday, July 13, 2012

Major Powers Supporting TAPI

Despite the obvious security problems surrounding the potential route of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline, major regional and international powers are supporting the project.  According to independent Indian energy analyst Saurav Jha, the United States is supporting the project to isolate Iran from regional integration efforts, and to showcase the potential of the American "New Silk Road Initiative."  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton held a Foreign Ministerial meeting in September 2011 with all of Afghanistan's neighbors to announce the launch of this effort, designed to bring economic development and political stability to the area.

Russian interests appear aligned with the US (although they differ on the rival Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline).  In both cases Russia is offering to participate in the construction of the line.  On the subcontinent itself, the Indian Gail Ltd company signed in May an agreement with Turkmenistan to purchase TAPI gas.  (Kabul signed a memorandum of understanding, but did not sign a formal agreement).

State Gas Systems of Pakistan also signed a purchase agreement in May.  Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari sent a message to Turkemn President Gurbanguly Berdimuhammadov stating the construction of TAPI was "essential" and the start of a new era of cooperation, according to   Zardari identified the pipeline as a major project:  "Pakistan is considering the construction of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline as a major project, which is the beginning of a new era of cooperation at the regional and interregional levels."

There is little chance of TAPI being constructed until after the United States and NATO withdraw their troops from Afghanistan in 2014, and the Afghan government shows it has the ability to maintain security of the proposed pipeline.

Nabucco West Wins Semi Finals

Nabucco West, the European remnant of the EU supported Nabucco pipeline, has been chosen by the Shah Deniz 2 consortium as their potential northern route.  The original Nabucco pipeline, now known as Nabucco classic, was shorn of its length in Azerbaijan and Turkey by the intergovernmental approval of the TANAP pipeline.

The victory of Nabucco West is not a small one.  The lead investor in Shah Deniz 2 is British Petroleum, and BP had their own pipeline proposal:  the South East Europe Pipeline (SEEP).   Nabucco West was probably able to secure the consortium's support because it has transit approvals from the countries through which it would run; SEEP had not advanced beyond the concept page.

"The Nabucco West project, with a route running from the Turkish-Bulgarian border to Baumgarten (in Austria) has been selected as the single pipeline option for the potential export of Shah Deniz Stage II gas to Central Europe,"  BP announced.

Nabucco welcomed the news.  Reinhard Mitschek, managing director of Nabucco Gas Pipeline Internation, issued a statement that, "This decision is an important milestone for the Nabucco project and a major step towards the final investment decision."

While Nabucco West has been chosen as the consortium's choice for a route to Central Europe, the consortium has also picked the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) as their choice for a delivery route to Southern Europe.  Nabucco will chose in 2013 whether the gas will go north or south.  So, the semifinals in this competition are over, and the final competition will face off Nabucco West and TAP.

EU Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger did not take a position on which route was preferable.  "With this pre-selection, we are a step closer to getting gas directly from Azerbaijan and other countries in the Caspian region.  Whatever the final decison on the whole route from the eastern part of Turkey to Europe, Azerbaijani gas is certain to come to Europe," he wrote.  "This is a success for Europe and for our security of supply."

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Higher Priced Gas Not Detering South Stream

Faced with competition from TANAP, Nabucco-West, LNG and alternative fuels, Gazprom is coming to grips with lower anticipated revenues from their proposed South Stream pipeline.  Sergei Komlev, head of price formation for Gazprom Export, believes Europe will buy the gas anyway.  In June, he told the World National Oil Companies Congress in London, "Our estimate is that the difference (between hub-priced gas and South Stream supplies) is $2 per million British thermal units," according to Reuters.  Komlev said the price would be attractive because Gazprom would provide South Stream gas via long-term contracts, which would provide more security of supply than spot-priced hub gas.

Revenues will suffer, however, because of price breaks to various countries.  As an example, to keep Bulgaria in the South Stream consortium, Gazprom has agreed to an 11% price discount for the upcoming year, a loss of USD 115 million.  Bulgarian Economy and Energy Minister Delyan Dobrev gave the results of these negotiations to reporters in June.  "Currently, there is no danger of Bulgaria not participating in South Stream," he said.  "We support the South Stream project.  We believe it is profitable for Bulgaria, but we have to specify all the details."

While Dobrev is pleased with the negotiations, there is a question as to whether Bulgaria can finance its share of the pipeline.  According to an unconfirmed source, Gazprom might pay for the Bulgarian section of the pipeline and then repay itself by deducting the gas transit fees the company would otherwise owe the country.  Regardless of the financing, South Stream has begun the Environmental Impact Statement for the 250 kilometer section that will run off the Bulgarian Coast, according to the Sofia News Agency.

South Stream has also recruited a new member of the consortium, Macedonia.  According to Macedonian Vice Premier and Minister of Finance Zoran Stavreski, membership will secure gas supplies for future generations of Macedonians, although the country was not originally considered for membership.  "This was in fact done (through a myriad of contacts and high-ranging talks) from a position where there were no plans to be included in the project," he said.  "There is no more dilemma--Macedonia is joining the international gas pipeline corridor 'South Stream' as it has been agreed between PM Nikola Gruevski and President Vladimir Putin.  We've received the text of the draft-agreement."

Russian President Putin continues to remain optimistic toward the project, and in June said the pipeline could begin natural-gas flows as early as 2014.  This would inaugerate the pipeline years before the Nabucco-West rival, which is scheduled for completion in 2017-2018.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

TANAP Signed Amid Russian Threats

On June 27, 2012, Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev signed the long-awaited agreement to construct the TANAP pipeline.  This 2,000 kilometer natural gas pipeline will link the Shah Deniz 2 gas field in the Caspian with Turkey's western border.  The original design is for the pipeline to carry 16 bcm of gas annually, of which 6 bcm is for the Turkish domestic market.  SOCAR (State Oil Company of Azerbaijan) will own 80% of the pipeline, with the remaining 20% divided between the Turkish pipeline companies BOTAS (Turkish Petroleum Pipeline Corporation) and TPAO  (Turkish Petroleum Corporation.)  The project is estimated to cost approximately $7 billion, and is scheduled for completion in 2018.

The two signators called the intergovernmental agreement "historic."  Other observers were equally impressed.  Mahmut Mucahit Findikli, head of the Turkish parliament's energy committee, told SE Times, "This is not only a very optimal way to meet European gas diversification needs, but also very important for our country as it increases Turkey's role as a transit country."  Charles University's Caspian energy expert Jan Sir noted the project "Keeps alive the stategic rationale" for a southern energy corridor to provide Europe with non-Russian gas.  "For Azerbaijan, it opens new export opportunities and provides the desired diversification of external relations and stable income...With the opening of the Caspian to the West, Turkey's Caucasus connection would become stronger and Russia would lose much of its influence over the post-Soviet region."  World Energy Council's Hilal Pataci issued a warning, however, that the agreement could turn into a "problem in Russia-Turkey relations in the upcoming years."

Pataci's warning has been echoed by Gazprom, the Russian government-owned gas company.  In response to a Turkish request for additional Russian gas (because of an explosion halting imports on the Iran-Turkey pipeline), Gazprom graciously agreed and noted the company has been a dependable supplier.  It warned, however, that if TANAP were completed in 2018, "Turkey could then apply for help to Baku."

One has to wonder, however, how much impact a mere 10 bcm per year of natural gas will have on Gazprom's European monopoly.  The amount represents only about 2% of European gas consumption.

Friday, July 6, 2012

European Responses to Gazprom Delivery Cuts

In February 2012 Gazprom reduced its deliveries of natural gas to Southern Europe to meet domestic demand in Russia.  This was the third time in six years that Gazprom cut deliveries to Europe:  2006, 2009 and 2012.  Unlike the first two interruptions which appear to have been politically motivated (aimed at influencing Ukrainian politics), this cutoff was precipitated by high demand--and Gazprom's inability to meet that demand.

Following the first two cutoffs, Europe united in demanding the creation of an alternative natural gas source.  Just as the gas outage was different than the first two, reactions have also differed.  In fact, European countries have diverged wildly as to their reactions.

The first to react was Russia itself.  On February 1, Gazprom acknowledged there had been increased demand, caused by the coldest weather to hit Europe in decades.  They pointed out that even though not everyone was getting all the gas they wanted, that Gazprom was honoring all its contractual obligations--a point acknowledged by the Europeans themselves.  Citigroup analysts in Moscow Ronald Smith and Alexander Bespalov released a note that read, "Gazprom will almost certainly meet its minimum contract requirements."  Gazprom Deputy Chairman Andrei Kruglov informed then-Prime Minister Putin that Gazprom could not increase gas deliveries to Europe.  Putin gave orders for Gazprom to do whatever was needed--but not at the expense of Russia's inhabitants.  "I am asking you to make a real effort to supply the demands of our foreign partners given that the top priority of our energy companies, including Gazprom, is to supply Russian customers," he said.

Gazprom's admission that they had cut back on deliveries was given hesitantly, however.  At first, they blamed Ukraine for the shortage--stating that Ukraine was stealing excess gas from the pipeline that passes through that country (See my blog entry "South Stream Advancing", June 12, 2012.)  When it became apparent that domestic demand was taking all the gas, Gazprom's other deputy chair, Alexander Medvedyev, admitted gas demand exceeded expectations by 50%.  Deputy Kruglov then stated the cuts had lasted several days, and had reached up to ten percent.  Officials in Austria and France reported shortages of 30%, and Italy reported shortages of 24%.  Ukraine itself claimed it was receiving 15% less gas.

IHS regional energy analyst Andrew Neff stated the obvious:  "The cold weather spike in demand raises questions about...Europe's apparent expectation that Gazprom can quickly ramp up export volumes as a "swing supplier,"  reported AFP.  East European Gas Analysis chief Mikhail Korchemkin explained why:  "Turkmenistan and storage gas could have contributed some 240 million cubic meters per day--enough to provide a stable gas flow to Europe," noted the same report.  But that gas was not available, because Gazprom has been building its network instead of storage facilities.  Deputy Chief Medvedyev conceded the problem and said, "We cannot promise that this will not happen again next winter or over the next five years..That is why we have given the green light to a program aimed at doubling the volume of our European storage facilities."

Jonas Gratz of the Center for Security Studies in Zurich, notes the paradox that while Russia can no longer play supplier of last resort, many European countries are rewarding Russia instead of seeking alternatives.  "The premise of stable supplies from Russia is crumbling fast," he wrote.  "Gazprom is not the "reliable supplier" that the Soviets may once have been (in the eyes of Western Europe).  Gazprom's market share in the EU turns out to be already too high for the sort of power play Moscow wants to pull off with the EU.  By exploiting irregularities and crises to display and test the EU's vulnerabilities, Russia strives to derail the EU's market liberalization agenda...Many EU member states and institutions have so far rather rewarded Russia's unreliable behavior...Instead of rewarding Russia, the EU and its gas industry have to focus on diversifying suppliers."

Europe's dependency of Russian energy will continue to grow in the future.  A doctoral student at Old Dominion University, Katerina Oskarsson, compiled an interesting report.  She wrote that the EU's gas imports are projected to accelerate due to a depletion of indigenous gas resources.  The European Commission estimates that the proportion of EU gas consumption met from imports is set to rise from 60% to 73-79% by 2020 and 81-89% by 2030.    These statistics, while alarming, need to be kept in perspective.  Russian gas only accounts for 6.5% of the EU's primary gas consumption.  The issue, however, is regional.  In Central and Eastern Europe, all states reply on Russia for at least 50% of their natural gas, and six countries get over 80% of their supply from Gazprom.

The Cold Snap has brought home the European need for non-Russian sources of natural gas.  As Nabucco is replaced by TANAP, however, the only non-Russian sourced pipeline is reduced to delivering less than 2% of Europe's energy needs.  Europe's dependence on Russia appears destined to continue, unless a combination of LNG, shale gas, and unconventional fuels can break it.