Natural gas has limited and expensive transport options. As a result, natural gas pipelines are constantly used as a tool of political pressure and bargaining.
One of the most notable battlefields is the European continent, where Russia has exerted its influence through an intricate network of pipelines.
This article presents information on fourteen European pipeline networks.
In the twelve months since the collapse of global oil prices and the imposition of Western economic sanctions against Russia, the number of new Russian gas export project announcements has skyrocketed.
Just only during the 3-4 previosu months, Gazprom signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with three European companies to build a second large gas pipeline system under the Baltic Sea called Nord Stream II. This was preceded by the announcement in December by President Vladimir Putin himself of the cancellation of the ambitious South Stream gas pipeline under the Black Seato be replaced by an equally grandiose project, soon to be dubbed Turkish Stream.
Both Nord Stream II and Turkish Stream are designed to bypass the critical transit route through Ukraine utilized by 40 to 50 percent of Russia’s current gas exports to Europe. Russia and Gazprom’s position on whether gas transit through Ukraine will continue after the current agreement expires in the not-too-distant future flip-flopped within a matter of weeks recently – first proclaiming that all transit will cease after 2019, then declaring that negotiation of a new deal has been ordered by President Putin.
1. NORD STREAM
Capacity: 55 billion cubic meters per year. Partners: Gazprom, Wintershall, E.ON, Gasunie, Engie.
The Nord Stream pipeline became operational in 2011. First proposed in 1997, disputes between Kiev and Moscow in 2006 and 2009 prompted Russia to stop natural gas flows through Ukraine, depriving Europe of natural gas and accelerating Nord Stream construction. The pipeline enables Russia to deliver energy directly to Germany and parts of Central Europe.
The Nord Stream gas pipeline is a fundamentally new route for Russian gas exports to Europe. The target markets for gas supplies via Nord Stream are Germany, the UK, the Netherlands, France, Denmark and others.
The new gas pipeline is extremely significant for meeting the increasing natural gas demand in the European market. Gas imports to the EU are anticipated to grow in the coming decade by nearly 200 billion cubic meters or more than 50 per cent. Due to a direct connection between the world’s largest gas reserves located in Russia and the European gas transmission system, Nord Stream will be able to satisfy about 25 per cent of this extra demand for imported gas.
In this regard, back in December 2000 the European Commission had assigned the Nord Stream project the Trans-European Network (TEN) status which was confirmed once again in 2006. This means Nord Stream is a key project aimed at creating crucial cross-border transport capacities with a view to ensure sustainability and energy security in Europe.
Capacity: 20 billion cubic meters per year. Partners: Gazprom, Wintershall, E.ON, Gasunie, Fluxys.
The NEL pipeline is complementary to the OPAL project and connects Nord Stream to existing gas infrastructure in western Germany.
NEL begins where the Nord Stream offshore pipeline comes on land in Lubmin near Greifswald and runs westwards through Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania to Lower Saxony. From Lubmin, the 441-kilometre-long pipeline first heads south-westwards towards the Mecklenburg Lake District. Between Güstrow and Teterow, it then continues in the direction of Schwerin before crossing the Elbe at Hittbergen near Lauenburg. South of Hamburg, NEL passes the catchment area of the town of Winsen on the River Luhe. From Seevetal, the pipeline first passes through the Nordheide parallel to the A1 as far as Achim near Bremen. Finally, after passing through the moor landscape near Syke and Bassum, it reaches Rehden (near Vechta), where the natural gas will be either stored or fed into the existing natural gas pipeline network.
Since complete commercial operation from November 1st, 2013 on, more than 20 billion cubic metres of natural gas a year will flow through NEL, which is equivalent to about a fifth of the whole of Germany’s natural gas requirements.
Capacity: 35 billion cubic meters per year. Partners: Wintershall, Gazprom, E.ON.
The German-built OPAL pipeline came operational in 2011 and connects Nord Stream to the gas infrastructure in eastern Germany and Central Europe. The EU Third Energy Package limits how much Gazprom can use OPAL. The European Commission was expected to increase exemption by 50 percent in March 2014, allowing Gazprom to use the pipeline to full capacity. However, the commission postponed its plans because of Ukraine crisis.
OPAL Gastransport GmbH & Co. KG operates north-west Europe’s largest natural gas pipeline, with a nominal diameter of 1,400 mm. The pipeline serves the further transport of natural gas to end customers in Europe.
The OPAL has a length of 472 kilometers and a capacity of 36 billion cubicmeters of natural gas per year. This is one third of the annual german demand of natural gas currently.
The pipeline leads from the Baltic Sea through Mecklenburg Western Pomerania, Brandenburg and Saxony to the Czech border in the near of the grid connection point Brandov. In the Compressor Station in Radeland (south of Berlin) the natural gas is compressed for the further transport to Brandov.
Capacity: 84 bilion cubic meters per year. Partners: Gazprom, Beltrangaz, PGNiG.
The Northern Lights and Yamal-Europe pipelines are two major systems that deliver Russian gas to Eastern Europe. Poland depends on the pipeline system and lacks good alternatives. In an attempt to become less reliant on Russian energy, Warsaw seeks to develop an LNG import facility on the Baltic Sea.
- Nothern Lights Natural Gas Pipeline
The Northern Lights pipeline system has a total length of 7,377 kilometres (4,584 mi), of which around 2,500 kilometres (1,600 mi) is used to transport Russian gas to Europe.
The pipeline runs from the Urengoy gas field through Vuktyl, Ukhta, Gryazovets, Torzhok and Smolensk to Minsk in Belarus and from there to Poland, Ukraine and Lithuania.A part of the newer Yamal–Europe pipeline runs parallel to the Northern Lights pipeline.A branch line from Gryazovets through Saint Petersburg to Vyborg supplies the Saint Petersburg area and Finland. A third parallel line will be added to this branch to supply the Nord Stream pipeline. In Torzhok, the Northern Lights pipeline intersects with the Moscow–Saint Petersburg pipeline supplying the Saint Petersburg area, Latvia and Estonia. The Minsk–Vilnius–Kaliningrad branch line supplies Lithuania and Kaliningrad Oblast while the Ivatsevichy-Dolyna branch line supplies Ukraine and the Kobrin-Brest-Warsaw branch line supplies Poland.
- Yamal Pipeline :Route
Facts and figures
The gas pipeline construction started in 1994 and in 2006 the Yamal – Europe gas pipeline reached its design capacity of 32.9 billion cubic meters after the last compressor station commissioning. The number of compressor stations at the gas pipeline – 14, the pipe diameter – 1,420 millimeters, the total length – over 2,000 kilometers.
The trunkline runs from the Torzhok gas transmission hub in the Tver Oblast where it receives gas from the Northern Tyumen Regions (SRTO) – Torzhok gas pipeline. The Russian section is 402 kilometers long and has three compressor stations: Rzhevskaya, Kholm-Zhirkovskaya and Smolenskaya.
The 575-kilometer-long pipeline runs across Belarus with 5 compressor stations operational: Nesvizhskaya, Krupskaya, Slonimskaya, Minskaya and Orshanskaya. Gazprom is the sole owner of the Belarusian gas pipeline section.
The Polish section consists of a 683-kilometer-long linepipe and 5 compressor stations: Ciechanow, Szamotuly, Zambrow, Wloclawek, Kondratki. EuRoPol Gaz (a joint venture of Gazprom and Polish PGNiG) owns the Polish pipeline section of the gas pipeline.
The westernmost point of the gas pipeline is the Mallnow compressor station near Frankfurt an der Oder in the vicinity of the German-Polish boarder where the gas pipeline links up with the YAGAL-Nord gas transmission system connecting it, in turn, to the STEGAL – MIDAL – Rehden UGS gas transmission system. WINGAS (a joint venture of Gazprom and Wintershall Holding GmbH) owns the German section of the gas pipeline.
5. SOYUZ (Through Ukraine)
Capacity: 26 billion cubic meters per year. Partners: Gazprom, Ukrtransgaz.
The Soyuz and Brotherhood pipelines are Gazprom’s major export routes for delivering gas to Europe through Ukraine. They have a total capacity of over 150 billion cubic meters. In an effort to avoid using Ukraine as a transit state, Gazprom is seeking alternative routes from 2019 onward.
6. BROTHERHOOD (Through Ukraine)
Capacity: 132 bilion cubic meters per year. Partners: Gazprom, UkrTransGaz.
Together with the Soyuz pipeline, the Brotherhood and Urengoy-Pomary-Uzhgorod pipeline systems are Gazprom’s major export conduits, delivering gas into Europe through Ukraine. Russia has been trying to reduce its reliance on Ukraine as a transit state.
- The Two major pipeline systems that carry Russian gas through Ukraine to Western Europe are the Bratstvo (“Brotherhood”) and Soyuz (“Union”) pipelines. The Bratstvo pipeline is Russia’s largest pipeline to Europe. It crosses from Ukraine to Slovakia and splits into two directions to supply northern and southern European countries. The Soyuz pipeline links Russian pipelines to natural gas networks in Central Asia and supplies additional volumes to central and northern Europe. A third major pipeline through Ukraine delivers Russian natural gas to the Balkan countries and Turkey. In the past, disputes between Russia and Ukraine over natural gas supplies, prices, and debts have resulted in interruptions to Russia’s natural gas exports through Ukraine, with the latest one occurring in 2014. (EIA)
7. BLUE STREAM
Capacity: 16 bilion cubic meters per year (expanding to 19 bcm). Partners: Gazprom, BOTAS, Eni.
One of two major pipeline systems that Gazprom uses to deliver natural gas to Turkey. Gazprom can deliver about 16 bcm to Turkey via Ukraine, and another 16 bcm directly to Turkey via Blue Stream. At the moment, neither pipeline alone has the capacity to meet Turkey’s energy demands. In 2014, Turkey and Russia agreed to expand the capacity of Blue Stream by 3 bcm.
Blue Stream has significantly enhanced the reliability of gas supplies to Turkey and it contributes to the gas market and infrastructure development in this country.
For the first time ever in the Russian oil and gas sector extensive tunnels were built at the mountainous section of the gas pipeline under the Kobyla and Bezymyanny Ridges. The length of the tunnels totaled 3,260 meters.
In parallel with the gas pipeline construction environmental measures were taken, such as land remediation along the whole pipeline route and preservation of more than 4 hectares of relic woods when crossing the Kobyla and Bezymyanny Ridges with the tunnels.
8. RUSSIAN GAS-WEST PIPELINE
Capacity: 16 billion cubic meters per year. Partners: BOTAS, Transgaz, Bulgartransgaz.
The Russian Gas-West pipelines deliver gas to Turkey through Ukraine, Romania and Bulgaria. In the future Turkish demand will exceed both the existing pipelines’ capacity and a third will be needed.
9. NORD STREAM 2
Capacity: 55 billion cubic meters per year. Partners: Gazprom, Shell, OMV, E.ON.
Gazprom signed a memorandum of understanding with Shell, OMV, and E.ON at the 2015 St Petersburg International Economic Forum to build the Nord Stream-2 pipeline. As proposed, Nord Stream-2 would be the same size as the original pipeline and go operational in late 2019. The pipeline will increase capacity over time to balance out reduced North Sea production.
The Gazprom-controlled Nord Stream-2 project envisages two pipelines directly from Russia to Germany, bypassing transit countries including Ukraine and Poland, with an annual capacity of almost 15 percent of current EU demand when it starts in 2019. The link would reduce Russia’s dependence on Ukraine, a linchpin in gas supplies to Europe, amid a conflict between the ex-Soviet nations.
Western Europe’s natural gas supplies from the North Sea, particularly from the United Kingdom, are in decline and could fall by at least 50 bcm over the next 20 years. By building an export pipeline to Western Europe, Gazprom can send more natural gas directly, avoiding the hefty transit fees that come with sending natural gas through multiple countries. Considering the decline in North Sea production, Gazprom has even considered building a pipeline spur to the United Kingdom. The lack of transit fees and the shorter route from Russia’s natural gas fields to Gazprom’s customers would put the company in a position to undercut more expensive remote offshore fields in the Norwegian and Barents seas, unconventional natural gas development in the United Kingdom and emerging liquefied natural gas exporters such as the United States. Even if Russian natural gas were uncompetitive, the state-owned Gazprom could still flood the market for political reasons as a way to discourage Western companies’ investment in other energy projects in and around Europe.
10. TURKISH STREAM
Capacity: 63 billion cubic meters per year. Partners: BOTAS, Gazprom.
The pipeline is designed to provide an alternative route to deliver natural gas into southern Europe, bypassing Ukraine. Gazprom signed a deal with Greece for the Southern European Pipeline connector that would linkup with TurkStream at the Turkey-Greece border to move supplies into Europe. Gazprom and Turkey have yet to finalize an agreement on the TurkStream pipeline itself. One of Ankara’s biggest incentives to support TurkStream would be to remove its own reliance on Ukraine-transited gas.
The offshore part of the pipeline will cross the Black Sea bed. Maximal depth along the route will reach 2,200 m. The length of the offshore part will amount to 910 km.
As planned, the TurkStream pipeline will surface on the shore of the European part of Turkey near Kıyıköy with gas delivery point at Lüleburgaz for the Turkish customers, and a border crossing between Turkey and Greece in İpsala serving as delivery point for the European customers. The length of Turkish onshore section will total 180 km. The capacity of four strings totals up to 63 bcma, including 47 bcma to be supplied to the Turkish-Greek border.
The project complies with all environmental safety standards. The construction and operation technologies for the subsea pipeline foresee minimal impact on the environment, seabed geology, water quality and the habitat for marine fauna, mammals and sea birds as well as fishery.
11. EASTRING PIPELINE
Capacity: 20 billion to 40 billion cubic meters per year. Partners: Eustream, Transgaz, Bulgartransgaz.
Eastring would connect infrastructure in Slovakia to Romania and Bulgaria. Slovakia has taken the lead on the project and even suggested connecting to TurkStream. Bratislava wants to be part of Gazprom’s plans to diversify transit options away from Ukraine because Slovakia is the critical link between pipelines in Ukraine and central Europe.
Eustream is a part of international pipeline connections for more than 40 years. Slovak Gas TSO in connected with Austrian, Czech, Ukrainian and Hungarian transmission systems and we are preparing connection to polish pipelines. As strategic gas carrier we fill liability for ensuring energy security of the European region. The Eastring project would connect western liquid markets to southeast Europe and Turkey.
After cancelation of the South Stream project, Eastring is very important element in process of diversification of natural gas sources and transmission routes, namely for the countries of the Balkan region. This would be possible by connection of these countries to the developed gas market places in Western Europe. Another very important aspect of the project is its ability to connect countries in the Central and Eastern Europe to the gas from the LNG terminals in Greece and Turkey, which would be possible via intended Bulgarian projects of connections to both mentioned countries. Intended connection between Bulgaria and Turkey allows also to consider Eastring pipeline from the another perspective – as a project able to connect Europe to the alternative gas sources from the Caspian region, e.g. Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Iran. From the perspective of the all mentioned aspects, Eastring project perfectly fits into the strategy of development of Bulgarian gas infrastructure. (Natural Gas Europe)
12. TRANS ADRIATIC PIPELINE
Capacity: 10 bilion cubic meters per year. Partners: BP, SOCAR, Statoil, Fluxys, Enegas, Axpo.
TAP is one of the EU’s South Corridor projects designed to move gas from the Caspian Sea region to Southern Europe through Turkey as a way to reduce reliance on Russia. The TAP pipeline would connect with the TANAP pipeline at the Turkey-Greece border and send gas to Italy through Albania. Construction on the project is expected to begin in 2015.
Connecting with the Trans Anatolian Pipeline (TANAP) at the Greek-Turkish border, TAP will cross Northern Greece, Albania and the Adriatic Sea before coming ashore in Southern Italy to connect to the Italian natural gas network.
The project is currently in its implementation phase and is preparing for construction of the pipeline, which is planned to begin in 2016.
Once built, TAP will offer a direct and cost-effective transportation route opening up the vital Southern Gas Corridor, a 3500-kilometre long gas value chain stretching from the Caspian Sea to Europe.
Capacity: 16 billion cubic meters per year. Partners: SOCAR, BP, BOTAS.
TANAP is designed to move gas from Azerbaijan’s to Turkey, where it will connect to markets in Europe. TANAP will send 16 billion cubic meters of gas into Turkey where it will connect with the TAP pipeline to send 10 bcm onward to Europe. The TANAP and TAP projects are cornerstones of the European Union’s Southern Gas Corridor energy projects to bring Caspian-sourced gas into Europe to counteract dependence on Russia. Construction on TANAP is expected to be complete by 2018.
14. SOUTH STREAM
Capacity: 63 billion cubic meters per year. Partners: Gazprom, Eni, others.
South Stream was a pipeline system that would have sent gas from Russia to Bulgaria across the Black Sea and then onward through Serbia into Central Europe. Gazprom canceled the project in December 2013 and is pursuing the TurkStream pipeline project instead, hoping to achieve the same strategic goal of bypassing Ukraine. The European Commission opposed South Stream and contributed to Gazprom’s cancellation of the project.
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Ronis Sofroniou is the author of Eyes on Europe & the Middle East and was born in Limassol, Cyprus, and studied Human Resources Management and French Language at Montpellier 3 University (2007) and granted with a Master’s degree in Oil and Gas Management from Abertay Dundee University in 2014. He worked at the Cypriot Embassy in Paris in 2009 and just after as a B2B salesman person in the smartphones market for some years. Currently he curries out a research study about Forex Companies Scams and Frauds in Cyprus. He lives between France and Cyprus where he works as an interpreter and French teache