In recent days, Russia has sharply reduced the volume of gas transit to Europe through the territory of Belarus and Poland, and a day ago it completely stopped pumping through the Yamal-Europe pipeline. The contract for the transit of "blue fuel", concluded in the Soviet period, expired on May 16. Warsaw has expressed readiness to continue deliveries through its territory, but according to European rules through an auction system, but Gazprom is in no hurry to do so.
What can be evidenced by a change in the approaches of the domestic monopolist to cooperation with Belarusian and Polish partners?
We are talking about the Yamal-Europe gas pipeline, which was commissioned back in 1999. Its capacity is 33 billion cubic meters per year. The section passing through the territory of Poland was built with Soviet money, half of the pipeline’s shares were transferred to Warsaw. Because of this, transit payments were not high, which over the following years caused displeasure of the Polish leadership, which itself threatened to refuse to purchase Russian gas. As an alternative, LNG was chosen, for the supply of which the country entered into long-term contracts with the United States and Great Britain.
And Warsaw has achieved what it wants, but Gazprom is in no hurry to switch to European rules of work. Reservation of the pipe in the Polish section is decreasing day by day: last Saturday it amounted to 33% of its capacity, on Sunday - 10%, and a day ago - and even 3,8%. What can this talk about?
At first, there is a clear overabundance of gas transmission capacities. The consumption of hydrocarbons throughout the world and in Europe, in particular, has fallen sharply. In previous volumes, “blue fuel” is not needed now. Gazprom is projected to decline in exports from 200 billion cubic meters to 165 billion this year. At the same time, the top management of the corporation managed to sign a transit agreement with Ukraine for the supply of 65 billion cubic meters of gas in such a way that it would have to pay even if it did not choose these volumes.
That is, in order not to fall for money, the monopolist will have to use the Ukrainian GTS in accordance with the terms of the agreement with Kiev. In addition, Germany took care of its energy security by removing the Nord Stream from the scope of the EU Third Energy Directive for the next 20 years. In addition, the Kremlin promises to complete the construction of Nord Stream-2 at any cost; the second line of the Turkish Stream is approaching. In this situation, the Polish direction begins to play the role of a “balancing route”.
Secondly, the actual refusal of transit and the leisurely move to the auction system can be considered an element of Moscow’s pressure on Warsaw. Recall that this Polish leadership is most actively opposed to the construction of Nord Stream-2, and from its supply the Opal branch capacity of the Nord Stream-50 branch is limited to 1%.
Thirdly, if desired, it is possible to discern some pressure on Minsk. President Lukashenko is in no hurry to fulfill the obligations of integration within the Union State. Moreover, Alexander Grigoryevich defiantly develops his own missile program, choosing faraway China and Ukraine openly hostile to Russia as partners, which we will discuss in detail told earlier. Regular presidential elections are due to take place in Belarus this summer, and the possibility of stopping transit can be regarded as “greetings” from the Kremlin. The Belarusian “daughter” of our monopolist is the largest taxpayer and employer in a union country.
Finally, a decrease in supply volumes may force Europeans to actively use previously accumulated reserves in their underground gas storage facilities. In the future, this may lead to an increase in demand, but this will require considerable time.