Poland and Bulgaria could only get by without Russian gas until the winter

With spring here, Russia’s decision to halt gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria may have less of an impact on consumers, whose heating needs are lower this season. The fact remains that the affected countries have no time to lose in finding alternative gas supplies before the cold returns.

Gazprom’s decision, notified to these two EU member states on Tuesday evening, was described as “Bribery” by EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and “hard recall” that the Union needs “reliable partners to build your energy independence”. She also tried to minimize the consequences of this situation, pointing out that neighboring countries have mobilized to supply gas to Poland and Bulgaria.

Their authorities were also reassuring: Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov welcomed the forthcoming completion of the Greece-Bulgaria (IGB) gas interconnector, which will mainly transport gas from Azerbaijan to his country. At the same time, Polish Minister of Climate and Environment Anna Moskwa pointed out that the reserves ensure the gas supply for Polish households.

However, experts told euronews that while the average consumer is unlikely to feel the effects of Russia’s gas freeze until winter, the situation for the industry is very different.

Polish winter “will be difficult”

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), in 2020 coal accounted for just over 40% of Poland’s energy mix, followed by oil (around 30%) and natural gas (around 18%), with the rest also coming from biofuels and waste like other renewable energy sources, including wind and sun.

but Poland covers less than half (46%) of its energy needs itself by producing about 80% of the coal consumed, but only 20% of the gas and 3% of the oil. So the rest is covered by imports. About half of the gas imported by Poland and almost two-thirds of the oil comes from Russia, according to the think tank Forum Energii.

These numbers are high, but still far below those of a few years ago, when almost 80% of Poland’s gas imports came from Russia.

When Gazprom’s decision was announced, Anna Moskva said her country was preparing for such a scenario and that “Thanks to infrastructure investments such as the Baltic Pipe project or connections to other member states, the Polish gas network is one of the few in the EU that can completely stop supplies from Russia.” She added that gas reserves are 76% full.

This is what Joanna Maćkowiak Pandera, President of Forum Energii, told euronews “Gazprom’s decision will not affect power generation” Poland.

“The biggest problem will be the industry, which is the largest gas consumer in Poland with 42%; then there are households and the heating sector.” She added.

The Baltic Pipe project, which will transport natural gas from Norway to Poland via Denmark, is still ongoing after delays. It should make it possible to supply 10 billion m³ of gas per year to Poland, which is about half of the country’s total consumption.

As of today, commissioning is scheduled for October 1st, but will be commissioned at lower volumes as it is not expected to be fully operational until January 1st, 2023, when winter has already started in the old continent.

Bulgaria needs “Solidarity Agreements”

Coal is also Bulgaria’s main energy source, closely followed by oil and nuclear power. Natural gas accounts for only 10-15% of its energy mix, with the rest being provided by biofuels, hydro, wind and solar.

but at least three quarters of the gas imports of the Eastern European country currently come from Russia and gas is essential for “the industrial consumer category of the market”Martin Vladimirov, director of the energy and climate program at the Center for the Study of Democracy (CSD) in Sofia, told euronews.

“The largest refinery in Southeastern Europe (also owned by Russia), fertilizer factories, glass factories and petrochemical producers alone account for a third of Bulgaria’s gas needs,” he remarked before adding: “Without an alternative, stable and regular gas supply, it would be difficult for the country to meet the gas needs of the industry; Rationing and production stops cannot be ruled out,” he claimed.

According to Martin Vladimirov, Bulgaria’s gas reserves are only 17% full.“This means that with the current consumption of around four million cubic meters per day, it could not cover the entire domestic gas requirement for longer than two to three weeks,” he explained.

The Bulgarian authorities are now relying on the ITUC. The pipeline will connect Bulgaria to the natural gas supply route that crosses Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan and then connects the Greek and Italian terminals.

But again, as in Poland with the Baltic Pipe project, it is unlikely that the IGB will be fully operational before the next drop in temperature. “It is more likely that the construction work will be completed in September and then a three-month certification process will follow,” Martin Vladimirov explained to us.

However, when this connection is fully effective, “Bulgaria’s gas security should really be strengthened,” the specialist continues, because he will supply one billion m³ of gas per year.

But, he added, “Bulgaria must look for other alternatives, including signing long-term contracts for the supply of LNG (liquefied natural gas) with other players such as the United States, Qatar or Algeria.”

“As an immediate measure, the Bulgarian government should sign solidarity agreements with Greece and Romania for certain defined gas volumes as Russian supply on the south-eastern European market decreases,” He guessed.

The EU turns to the United States, Qatar, South Korea…

Two weeks after Russia started the war in Ukraine, the European UnionFor her part, she announced that she was leaving reduce its imports of Russian gas by two-thirds by the end of the year.

Then, late last month, an agreement was reached with Washington that the United States would increase its shipments of liquefied natural gas by 15 billion cubic meters this year to mitigate the impact of the fall in Russian gas supplies. By 2030, they should then supply it with a further 50 billion m³ of LNG.

Brussels is also committed to accelerating the diversification investments, especially in renewable energy, but also in terminals that can accommodate LNG shipments from countries like Qatar, South Korea and Israel. These terminals can then be reused to produce hydrogen, which the EU has made a key part of its energy transition and quest to become the first carbon-neutral continent by 2050.

Ursula von der Leyen confirmed in a press address on Wednesday that the EU is striving for this “Guarantee alternative gas supplies from other partners”, noting that the decision is by Gazprom “a stark reminder that we need to work with reliable partners.”

According to the Commission, the EU has the potential to import an additional 50 billion m³ of LNG per year.

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