October 21, 2018
As “Süddeutsche Zeitung” wrote, Vladimir Putin had assured the chancellor Angela Merkel that in case of need, Russia, from its own resources, would be ready to finance the construction of “Nord Stream 2”. At the same time counteraction to construction of the second branch of the gas pipeline on the ground of the Baltic Sea is one of fundamentals of the Polish foreign policy. And it is natural. Each serious buyer (and not only of gas) shall have alternative channels of supply. However, it is worth asking a question: who “in fight for “Nord Stream 2” has more problems: Poland diversifying its procurement or Russia for which it becomes more and more difficult to earn from hydrocarbons from year to year. Let’s compare a situation with the Russian export of wheat. Now Russia is its largest exporter in the world. Its export has increased - in quantitative expression - by 36%. However, if we take into account export cost, it decreased by 1,8%. It means that Russia sells more and more, but the Russian growers earn from export less and less. If more precisely, the state pays extra for export, for example, at the expense of subsidies for transportation and also builds additional storages. We may see a situation which economists call inefficient investments. Gas is not wheat, but the principle of inefficient investments remains the same. Let’s consider, for example, the Russian “Gazprom”. Recently there was 25 years from the moment of its creation. Russians analyze a way passed by the corporation for these years. Conclusions are not optimistically at all. Notwithstanding the fact that for the last 18 years the Russian economy has received from hydrocarbons export an astronomical amount of 3,5 trillion dollars, its dependence on oil and gas export has not decreased, but increased. In 2000 the share of hydrocarbons in export made 52%. In 2017 this figure was 55%. It means that the federal budget of the Russian Federation depends on export of hydrocarbons more and more. In 2000, the budget received 25% of income, now - 40%. Of course, a problem is not in percentage, but in the amount of revenues. There are no doubts that as a result of an oil boom Russia had much more money. But it, contrary to statements of the Russian politicians, did not create alternative sources of replenishment of the budget in better days. They have not prepared for the worst times in the event of prices or demand for the Russian gas are much lower. They have not changed economy structurally. It seems that Russia has put everything on one “gas card”. Long-term plans of “Gazprom” provide stable and significant growth in export in the European market. By 2035, according to analysts of group, production will fall in Europe, and consumption will increase. As a result, purchase by Europeans will increase from current 300-325 BCM of gas up to 393-459 billion. Proceeding from these calculations the Russian giant estimates to put into operation eight new areas of extraction of hydrocarbons in 2027, from which three, located in Eastern Siberia, transfer gas to Asia. The others will make deliveries to Europe. As the practice of the last years has shown the fact of ownership of the gas pipeline does not mean its use. The Sakhalin-Khabarovsk-Vladivostok pipeline was filled less than 40% till 2016. Later such data were kept a secret. Actually, it was not better in a case of “Nord Stream”: in 2012 – 67% of its capacity were used, in a year – 57%, then 35%, and in 2015 only 29% were hardly used!!! Only in 2016-2017 the pipe was filled almost for 100%. The situation around the well-known gas agreement with China (there is no in practice) is similar, but nevertheless Russia is building “Power of Siberia” gas pipeline. It is building, paying more and more, but there are no prospects of profit. The consortium on construction of pipelines has 20 years’ tax exemption, and “Gazprom” received similar one but 15 years’ tax exemption. Moreover, the former Deputy Minister of Energy of the Russian Federation Vladimir Milov reported that the debt of the Russian companies of extraction of hydrocarbons to China has already exceeded 70 billion dollars. Conditions of both credit and commercial contracts are the most carefully protected secrets. According to Mr. Milov, after discover of huge reserves of slate gas in China, Russia will never be able to earn from supplies to China. There is also other problem. It is difficult to consider “Gazprom” as effectively operated company. If in 1999 the company extracted 546 billion cubic meters of gas a year, then 18 years later this figure decreased up to 472 billion cubic meters while the staff of the company for this period increased from 298 thousand to 467 thousand persons. In the Russian oppositional circles, the opinion is widespread that the expediency of many projects of “Gazprom” is equal to zero, and it is only about how to make good money on construction of pipelines, stations for gas liquefaction and all other infrastructure. This year it has turned out that construction of “The Turkish stream” will cost one billion US dollars more, than it was estimated, and a land (Russian) part of “Nord Stream-2” has already rose in price for the last three years for 25%. On paper, from the Russians point of view, everything looks perfectly. Expenses on delivery of 1000 cubic meters of the Russian gas to Germany make about 400 euros while liquefaction and delivery of the same volume of the American gas cost 500 euros. The difference is not big, but it may so happen that in the next years it will quickly disappear. And what will be if development of the European market is not such as estimated by “Gazprom”? Significant increase in a share of renewable energy in power balance of the main buyer and the most important partner of Russia - Germany recorded in the present coalition agreement may become the main reason. The agreement has a paragraph that partners in the coalition will seek to increase volumes to the level of 66% in 2030 (from present 33%). If it occurs, the strategy of “Gazprom” will be undecided. Instead of stable growth there will be the highest level of demand stagnation. Other factor is Qatar which has recently declared that it wanted to increase gas export from 77 to 100 BCM. It is about the liquefied gas which is generally delivered to Europe. The Polish press has already written tens of articles about plans of export growth of hydrocarbons by producers from the United States. The coast of Cyprus has also new perspective fields, the pipeline from Algeria to Italy and from Morocco to Spain is planned. As a rule, the market of the liquefied gas (LNG) slowly, but becomes the world market, and this tendency cannot be terminated in the long term. If Russia, for credit money (because the second branch is under construction for expensive credits) wants to construct and drown it in the Baltic Sea, let it make. Poland and Europe shall take care of that Russia will sell gas so cheap that all this grandiose action will be unprofitable. Source: http://serwisy.gazetaprawna.pl/energetyka/artykuly/1282247,nord-stream-2-pozwolmy-mu-zbankrutowac.html
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