From Denmark to Portugal, Europe is stepping up its efforts to free itself from Russian gas

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published on Tuesday, April 12, 2022 at 10:52 am

Laid not far from a muddy trench, the large black pipes will soon be buried in this corner of land in Denmark. Long suspended, the construction of a gas pipeline linking Norway to Poland resumed after the invasion of Ukraine.

From LNG terminal projects in northern Germany, Finland or France, to possible new routes via Spain or the eastern Mediterranean, Europe is working hard to emancipate itself from the Russian gas, although the task will take years, experts say.

In Middelfart, on the Danish island of Funen, work on the Baltic Pipe resumed last month to complete this connection of nearly 900 kilometers.

“It’s also about having the gas in the Danish system, but above all to help the gas system of our good neighbors and Polish friends”, explains to AFP Søren Juul Larsen, project manager at the Danish operator. Energinet energy infrastructure.

Barely a week after the invasion of Ukraine, the Danish environmental authority – which was particularly concerned about the project’s impact on local species of mice and bats – granted a permit to continue construction , after nine months of suspension.

“We expected it to be approved soon, but of course the war has made the issue more urgent,” said Trine Villumsen Berling, researcher at the Danish Institute for International Studies.

Born almost 20 years ago, started in 2018, the partially subsea project should now enter service in October, before being fully operational on January 1, 2023.

“We really have good cooperation with all the contractors to speed up, do everything we can to keep to the schedule,” assures Mr. Juul Larsen while showing the premises.

– Nord Stream 2 discontinued –

With an annual transport capacity of 10 billion m3 of gas, the gas pipeline should make it possible to guarantee half of the consumption of Poland, which announced three years ago the end in 2022 of its vast contract with the Russian giant. Gazprom.

But this good news for Warsaw could complicate supplies for the rest of Europe, a sign of the complexity of supplies on the continent.

Norway, Europe’s second-largest gas supplier after Russia, is indeed producing at full capacity and the gas arriving in Poland will therefore no longer be sold in Western Europe.

“This project should help Poland, but could lead to a decrease in Norwegian gas exports to the United Kingdom and Germany,” said Zongqiang Luo, an expert with analyst firm Rystad.

In addition, many long-term contracts between Russia and European suppliers still run for 10 to 15 years, he notes.

But according to the EU executive, the EU could do without Russian gas completely “well before 2030”.

With Norway at full speed, deposits in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom in decline and Russia undesirable, Europe is therefore seeking its gas from further afield, with liquefied natural gas (LNG) transportable by ship, coming from United States, Qatar or Africa.

But its importation requires the construction of heavy terminals, or at least the purchase of floating storage and regasification units (FSRU) for imported LNG.

– Alternative routes –

Faced with the abandonment of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia – whose construction had resumed last winter in Danish waters – Germany has thus urgently relaunched three projects for the installation of LNG terminals, hitherto considered as non-priority.

One could be ready for winter 2023/24, the other two not before 2026.

Finland, associated with Estonia, announced on Thursday a project to lease an import terminal vessel, while the three Baltic countries announced that they had stopped importing Russian gas since April 1.

In southern Europe, Spain and Portugal are defending an alternative supply route to Russian gas.

The port of Sines, the largest in Portugal, plans to double the capacity of its gas terminal in less than two years.

Linked by gas pipeline to Algeria and equipped with vast LNG terminals, Spain could present an option. But this involves heavy work to improve connections with the rest of the EU, via France.

Another path also relaunched: connecting to Europe the gas from the eastern Mediterranean, discovered en masse 20 years ago off the coast of Israel and Cyprus.

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