Ukraine war speeds Greece’s transition to EU energy gateway | Russia-Ukraine war

Athens, Greece – In a couple of month, Greece will end constructing a pipeline to Bulgaria that can finish Russia’s fuel monopoly there and in southeast Europe.

Russia has equipped 90 % of Bulgaria’s fuel till now, however on April 27, it minimize Bulgaria off after Sofia stated it might not renew its contract with Russian fuel large Gazprom on the finish of the yr.

Poland stated the identical, and suffered the identical destiny.

“[Russian President Vladimir] Putin didn’t need it to appear as if he’d misplaced purchasers, so he threw them out early,” stated Mike Myrianthis, an oil business veteran and analyst.

Bulgaria is now trying to the Interconnector Greece-Bulgaria, as the brand new pipeline is named, to produce it with fuel from Azerbaijan, which Greece receives through the Trans-Anatolian pipeline that traverses the Caucasus and Turkey.

“Since just a few days in the past, Bulgaria is already out of the [Russian] pipeline system and totally depending on Greece [for gas]. That has by no means occurred earlier than. Greece has by no means been liable for securing one other nation’s vitality safety,” stated Michalis Mathioulakis, who heads the Greek Power Discussion board, a think-tank.

What provides the IGB strategic significance, nevertheless, is that it might quickly turn out to be the means for supplanting Russian fuel all through the Balkans with liquefied pure fuel from the US, Qatar, Egypt and elsewhere.

On January 31, a consortium of Greek, Cypriot, Bulgarian and Italian corporations introduced that they may construct a floating terminal to import LNG offshore Alexandroupolis, in northern Greece.

This floating storage and regasification unit (FSRU), which can re-vaporise liquefied fuel, will hook up with the IGB pipeline and begin supplying it on the finish of subsequent yr.

“I firmly imagine that we’re witnessing a brand new daybreak in Europe’s vitality independence,” stated European Council president Charles Michel, at a ceremony to spotlight the FSRU in Alexandroupolis on Could 3.

Curiosity within the mission has prolonged past Bulgaria.

North Macedonia, whose prime minister was additionally in attendance, was reportedly considering turning into a shareholder within the FSRU.

With Russian fuel provide now embroiled within the politics of its struggle in Ukraine, even Russia-friendly Serbia is intrigued.

Its president, Aleksandar Vucic, advised the Could 3 gathering of regional leaders, “I used to be one of many sceptics who at all times stated, ‘It received’t occur’ … Now that we see it’s prepared to start out, I can say we’re really grateful and we’re ready to obtain comparatively massive portions of fuel.”

Mathioulakis advised Al Jazeera, “[Southeast Europe] will rely an increasing number of on fuel that comes from Greece, so its geopolitical footprint within the Balkans will increase.”

Greece is turning into a gateway for LNG as a result of it’s surrounded by sea.

It has the one LNG import terminal within the Balkans as far north as Croatia, however its capability can barely cowl Greek demand in the mean time.

However demand for non-Russian fuel within the area has been rising so quick that the consortium constructing the Alexandroupolis FSRU, Gastrade, utilized for, and acquired, a licence for a second FSRU.

The Ukraine struggle was the important thing catalyst each for larger demand and for larger costs.

Motor Oil Hellas, a refinery close to Korinth in southern Greece, has been contemplating its personal FSRU. Earlier this yr, it carried out a market check petroleum business circles stated was extremely profitable, and an funding resolution is anticipated this yr.

Yet one more FSRU is at a conceptual stage of growth offshore the japanese Greek port of Volos, which might be sponsored by ExxonMobil and traders from the Gulf.

And Greece’s present LNG terminal at Revythousa close to Athens is being optimised to function at capability.

“Greek LNG terminals might be able to completely cowl not solely the Greek market, however to supplant a good portion of Russian pure fuel to the Balkans,” stated Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

“Moscow’s latest pure fuel blackmail now render this cooperation not simply mandatory however, I’d say, pressing,” he stated.

Mitsotakis believed the initiatives which are in superior levels of planning or building can be able to bringing in about 21 billion cubic metres (bcm) of fuel a yr. Through the subsequent three years, Greece’s consumption has been projected to rise to soak up about half that quantity, leaving about 10bcm a yr for export to the Balkans.

The IGB can carry solely 5.5bcm a yr, however that would change if Greece sees demand for LNG past the Balkans.

“We’ll see over time what number of EU nations will demand LNG fuel from Greece via this method,” stated Myrianthis.

“It’s clear {that a} second pipeline might be made, parallel to IGB … The route is now a given. The land has been appropriated so there are not any bureaucratic hurdles. It is going to occur in a short time, so you may simply attain 10bcm a yr,” he advised Al Jazeera.

Compressors might conceivably double that, making IGB a rival to Turkish Stream, the Russian-built pipeline that crosses the Black Sea to feed into southeast Europe.

Greece has additionally been planning a separate interconnector to North Macedonia, and previous, Soviet-era pipelines that used to carry Russian fuel south are being reversed to hold LNG north to Bulgaria and North Macedonia.

However essentially the most audacious use of Russian infrastructure in opposition to Moscow continues to be to return, believed Myrianthis.

A Gazprom-led consortium has simply constructed a brand new pipeline traversing Bulgaria and Serbia to achieve Hungary. Moscow meant it as an extension of Turkish Stream, pumping 15bcm per yr of Russian fuel into the Balkans.

The EU has banned Russian coal and is within the means of banning Russian oil.

Many analysts believed fuel might observe, stranding Russian fuel infrastructure.

“EU sanctions [will at some point stop] Russian fuel from flowing in it, and the fuel from Alexandroupolis can movement via IGB and into this infrastructure. That is the geopolitical significance [of IGB],” stated Myrianthis.

Greece is able to play the position of fuel conduit because of the final main Russian fuel disaster of 2009, when Russia minimize off provide to Ukraine in midwinter, resulting in shortages and energy cuts all through southeast Europe.

That was when the European Fee started to fund the so-called “Southern Gasoline Hall”, which led to the creation of the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline bringing Azeri fuel throughout Greece. That was additionally when Gastrade utilized to licence the Alexandroupoli FSRU.

The idea of a southern vitality hall is being expanded.

The EU introduced this yr that it’s going to spend 657 million euros ($693m) to put a two-gigawatt undersea electrical energy cable to import electrical energy from Israel through Cyprus and Greece to the EU grid. Greece can even be the conduit for the same cable stretching from Egypt.

“Unquestionably the geopolitical significance of [Greece] is rising,” stated Thrasy Marketos, a visiting lecturer in Eurasian geopolitics on the College of the Peloponnese.

“Russia has tried to encompass Jap Europe via its vitality wants lately … Putin understands Europe’s strategic vitality safety as a geopolitical recreation to divide Europe and promote his personal coverage.”

Since Putin declared struggle on Ukraine, the EU appeared to have declared struggle on his vitality coverage.

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