The Russian attack on Ukraine in February 2022 had far-reaching implications for global, regional geopolitics as well as the EU energy security.
In the second essay of the „University Series” Hédi explores Norway's emergence as the primary energy supplier of the EU after a year. The momentum for Norway is primarily a consequence of the Western sanctions on the Russian energy supply thus the rapid European diversification process.
The essay begins by discussing the period leading up to the Ukrainian War and the subsequent changes in the landscape energy politics landscape that occurred following the invasion.
The essay then focuses on Norway's unique circumstances and examines the various methods of transporting natural gas, in the form of pipelines and LNG, as well. Finally, the essay concludes by presenting some key findings and reflections on the current situation.
(Zsanett Gréta Papp)
Norway as Europe’s biggest energy supplier in 2022
European countries are dependent on the import of fossil fuels, for example, crude oil and natural gas, and Russia was an important provider of those sources: in 2021 almost half of Europe’s gas needs were imported from Russia. Then on the 24th of February 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine. Since then more than a year has passed, and it brought changes in not just the two countries.
With the war the situation changed dramatically: in 2022 only 24,65% of the gas import came from Russia, meanwhile, Norway provided 24,9% of it and the LNG (US, Qatar and Nigeria) was standing at 25,7%.
There are multiple reasons why Norway was the most eligible European country to partially replace Russia. First and foremost because Norway and the European Commission have a strong and profitable relationship. The European Commission is one of the three main governmental institutions of the EU, and it’s the one that negotiates international trade agreements. In addition, Norway is also a European Economic Area (EEA) member and cooperates with the EU in many other areas as well. While Norway is not an EU member, it is one of the NATO co-founders, which secures close relationships with several European countries, including its neighbour Sweden.
Despite all the positives of Norway playing such a huge role in Europe’s gas provision, there are some downsides as well. One of the most critical risks which always represents fear is that Norway shares a border with Russia. Due to territorial disputes, the rising tensions between Norway and Russia, therefore, could easily be developed into a conflict between NATO and Russia, even in military way. There’s also cause for fear: lately, there have been sightings of some unidentified drones in the area.
Although the change was inevitable, it is not entirely beneficial for the European countries. Norwegian gas is more expensive than Russian gas. In July 2022 more than 13 billion EUR (5300 billion HUF) was paid for the gas coming from Norway, which is around four times as much as it ever was before the energy crisis. Although Norway profits from its current role in today’s economy, the sale of this quantity of fossil fuels does not fit into the very strict green policy Norway follows domestically, and although the whole European energy crisis sped up the process of changing to renewable energy, it still has a long way to go.
Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), is a technology developed to transport quickly and efficiently. The liquefaction involves cooling the gas down to around -160°C, as in this state of matter LNG takes up much less volume than gas, and in this way, it can travel long distances without the need of pipelines, on ships or road tankers. To utilize LNG it needs to be transformed back into natural gas, and while not a lot of European countries have this kind of transformation, which makes the process somewhat expensive, it is still much more a friendly price, than what we would need to pay if we were to transfer it through pipelines from countries that are very far from Europe. This method is mostly used by the USA, Qatar and Nigeria.
The more traditional way of transporting natural gas is using pipelines. Europe has a few pipelines, the most important as of right now are the Yamal pipeline coming through Russia and the Europipe II. coming from Norway.
The Nord Stream I and II are both undersea pipelines that come from Russia to north-eastern Germany. The Nord Stream 1 opened in 2011 and its capacity is 170m3 of gas per day. However ever since Russia invaded Ukraine Northern Europe detected several leaks and problems with this crucial pipeline, including an unanticipated reduction of gas supply and in late August it was shut down completely. Surprisingly enough, in late September four leaks in both pipelines were reported from Norway and Denmark: the pipelines were filled with gas, even though the gas was not flowing through them for over a month. Russia has denied responsibility. The Nord Stream pipelines are owned by Nord Stream AG, whose majority shareholder is Gazprom, a Russian state-owned company, and that is one of the main reasons why Germany postponed granting an operation license to Nord Stream II.
Europe’s gas supply is not a simple question and there is no easy solution, multiple actions must be taken to manage our current situation and different options must be investigated. One of the most important questions is green energy – the development of renewable energy could reduce the dependence on fossil fuels of other countries. Smart and unified European politics may help avoid international conflicts resulting in global problems.