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EU Parliament Votes to Curb Russian Oil, Gas Flows

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The European Parliament has adopted a nonbinding resolution calling for restrictions on EU imports of Russian oil and gas and further diversification of EU energy sources, including building more LNG terminals.

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said EU investments should prioritize energy security and independence and emphasized that this ultimately means switching to a renewables-based energy system.

"We simply cannot rely so much on a supplier that explicitly threatens us," von der Leyen told the Parliament on Tuesday.

She was speaking before the vote during a plenary session of the Parliament that was called to assess Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The resolution was overwhelmingly approved by EU lawmakers but carries no legal weight. It called for a broadening of EU sanctions to weaken Russia's economy and limit its ability to wage war.

In particular, it called for restrictions on imports of "the most important Russian export goods, including oil and gas."

The EU, like the US, has tried to exclude energy transactions from the sanctions and other measures that it has taken against Russia, in order to minimize their impact on the economies of EU member states.

Stepping Up Diversification

Brussels is talking to other gas exporting countries about increased supplies of pipeline gas and LNG, including Norway.

Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson said on Monday that EU imports of LNG have been running at around 10 billion cubic meters per month, a record high, and insisted that the bloc will safely get through what is left of this winter.

The EU is also looking at building more LNG import capacity, expanding its interconnector capacity to alleviate bottlenecks in transborder gas flows, and replenishing its depleted gas storage volumes.

Germany recently announced that it will fast-track two LNG terminals after halting the certification of Russian gas giant Gazprom's 55 billion cubic meter per year Nord Stream 2 pipeline.

And shareholders in Greece's 5.5 Bcm/yr Alexandroupolis LNG terminal project took a final investment decision in January.

Meanwhile, British Gas owner Centrica became the third big UK energy firm to cut ties with Russia, saying on Tuesday that it was working to "exit our gas supply agreements with Russian counterparts, principally Gazprom, as a matter of urgency."

Speaking at a special meeting of EU energy ministers on Monday, Simson outlined other steps the EU is taking to reduce dependence on Russian gas in the short run.

These include connecting the Ukrainian and Moldovan electricity grids to the European grid as soon as possible and building up strategic gas stocks to prepare for next winter and the possibility of a major supply disruption from Russia.

Long-Term Goals, Short-Term Pain

But the EU Commission President stressed at Tuesday's impassioned plenary session — which was also addressed by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy — that renewables are the future, rather than greater diversification of gas supplies.

"In the long run, it is our switch to renewables and hydrogen that will make us truly independent. We have to accelerate the green transition, because every kilowatt-hour of electricity Europe generates from solar, wind, hydrogen and biomass reduces our dependency on Russian gas and other energy sources," von der Leyen said.

"On top, less dependency on Russian gas and other fossil fuel sources also means less money for the Kremlin's war chest."

She admitted, however, that turning away from Russia would come at a cost for Europe.

"Protecting our liberty comes at a price. But this is a defining moment, and this is the cost we are willing to pay, because freedom is priceless," von der Leyen said.

Topics:
Military Conflict, Sanctions, Security Risk , Trade, Renewable Electricity , Low-Carbon Policy, Ukraine Crisis
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