Eastern Europe and Russian Natural Gas: The movement away from Gazprom
The supply of natural gas to Eastern Europe has long been the preserve of Russian state-backed giant Gazprom, but their decade’s long domination of energy supply and heavy influence in the internal machinations of former Soviet countries is now under threat. Since the early promise of vast shale gas riches evaporated amid poor early drilling results, the movement away from dependency upon Russian gas has gained impetus from the growth of Liquid Natural Gas, the development of reverse-flow pipelines and new regulations from the European Union. The combination has given several Eastern European states far improved deals and greatly improved their political bargaining power. Whilst the Russian supply cannot be directly replaced, movement away from one source of natural gas has occurred and is likely to gather pace.
Analyzes the efforts to reduce dependency on Russian natural gas in Eastern Europe Evaluates the potential sources of new gas and their likely impact Identifies the present trends in the Eastern European gas energy market
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What is the present state-of-affairs of gas supply in Eastern Europe? What means are there to reduce dependency on Gazprom? What progress has there been in Eastern Europe?
An important development in global gas supply has been Liquid Natural Gas produced in vast quantities. Not only does LNG reduce the requirement from Gazprom but provides an important lever to gain an improved position. Significantly, both Poland and Lithuania have been able to change their energy policies to a large extent. However, LNG is not a cure-all. Demand is rising and major consumers, such as Japan, are likely to require more in the light of a failing appetite for nuclear power. Despite this, LNG has clearly been important in providing a means for Eastern Europe to diversify supply and improve their geopolitical situation. An important development has been the ability for countries to indirectly supply Russian gas to one another, limiting the scope for Gazprom to assert control. Not only has energy security improved but it is much harder for Gazprom utilize its bulk to its benefit. Crucially the European Union has been at the heart of the changes. Much money has come from European coffers to develop the pipeline network. Additionally, the imposition of new rules tacitly designed to neuter Gazprom in Eastern Europe gave former Soviet bloc countries important new tools to strengthen their political and economic hands. The move to reduce the influence of Gazprom has been damaged by the continuation of a proposed pipeline directly connecting Russia and Germany. Numerous Eastern European countries voiced disquiet and Gazprom’s partners have all pulled out, yet it appears to remain on course. Some fear the pipeline will undermine the international co-operation which has characterized the regions outlook on regaining influence and control from Gazprom. The reaction of the European Commission is important – many are looking towards them for enforcement of anti-competition regulations that have already proven useful in halting the South Stream pipeline.