Europe's best chance of survival without Russian gas in the longer term lies in piped gas through the expansion of the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP), Marco Giuli, an associate policy analyst at the European Policy Centre (EPC), told Anadolu Agency.
The Trans Adriatic Pipeline is part of the Southern Gas Corridor, transporting natural gas to Europe from the Shah Deniz II field in Azerbaijan.
With Europe’s energy sources under threat with Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the bloc is looking at alternative means to diversify energy suppliers.
The European Commissioner for Energy, Kadri Simson, also said last week that reducing the EU’s dependence on Russian gas is a strategic imperative for the bloc.
On Tuesday, the European Commission proposed its new 'REPowerEU' plan to stop Europe's dependence on Russian fossil fuels before 2030, starting with gas.
The plan covers the diversification of gas supplies, via higher Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) and pipeline imports from non-Russian suppliers, and larger volumes of biomethane and renewable hydrogen production and imports.
Simson said although the EC has significantly diversified supply in recent years through building LNG terminals and new interconnectors, Russia’s attack on Ukraine was a watershed moment.
According to Giuli, Europe could survive the end of this winter mostly through storage withdrawals, small increases in additional imports, and some situations, through demand curtailment.
However, he warned that replenishing storage during the spring/summer and surviving the next winter without Russian gas would be extremely challenging.
As the removal of Russian gas exports of approximately 150 billion cubic meters (bcm) from Europe's supply structure would have very serious effects on prices, Giuli noted that demand-side interventions cannot also be ruled out.
According to International Energy Agency data, 155 billion cubic meters of gas was imported by Europe from Russia last year, constituting 45% of total gas imports and 40% of total gas consumption.
- 'It is vital to maintain access to Caspian resources'
In case of halts or limits on natural gas supplies from Russia, Europe’s alternative piped gas supply routes are limited at the moment, Giuli said.
'Turkey routes to Europe gas from both Azerbaijan and Russia. In case of a shutdown of Russian supplies, it is, of course, vital to maintain access to Caspian resources. However, these are overall modest amounts,' he said.
TAP already supplies about 7 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas but could supply up to 10 bcm. Nonetheless, Giuli said that if the pipeline were expanded, it would take a capacity of up to 20 bcm, which would be part of the solution, but a limited part for the time being.
Pumping gas at full capacity through the pipeline network would also contribute to meeting demand, although Giuli said most of the spare capacity is in the Russian network – especially Yamal-Europe and the Ukraine corridor, while Norway and Azerbaijan are pumping almost at capacity.
Giuli cited the Transmed pipeline from Algeria to Italy that runs at half capacity as a possible source.
'Italy seems confident additional amounts can be imported through this route, although Algeria has been suffering from underinvestment and growing domestic demand,' he added.
Spare capacity could also potentially be realized via the Gazoduc Maghreb Europe (GME) pipeline from Algeria to Spain, which is currently not in use due to tensions with Morocco.
- 'Energy companies play in an incredibly difficult and uncertain context'
Over the long term, Giuli said the best option is through an expansion of TAP, and also through limited additions through the EastMed pipeline, as it is a politically divisive corridor.
'For the time being, Europe continues to abide by a policy of no support for new pipelines. Instead, member states might renew their support to new LNG facilities, although costs and benefits should be carefully considered. What if the war ends in a way that allows Europeans to reconcile with Russia? It’s ultimately up to energy companies to take decisions over investments and contracts. They are now playing in an incredibly difficult and uncertain context,' he concluded.
By Ebru Sengul Cevrioglu