Factbox: What are Europe’s options in the event of a Russian gas disruption?

LONDON, Feb 15 (Reuters) – Concerns have grown over a possible cut in supplies from Russia, Europe’s biggest gas supplier, following Russian troop build-ups near Ukraine and a the escalation of tensions between Moscow and the West.

Russia said on Tuesday some of its troops were returning to base after exercises near Ukraine and scoffed at repeated warnings from the West about an imminent invasion, but NATO said it would not. had yet seen no evidence of de-escalation. Read more

The US administration and the European Union have asked other countries like Qatar and Japan to help provide additional shipments of liquefied natural gas (LNG) if Russia attacks Ukraine and sanctions are imposed to Russia.

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Russian gas flows to Europe have been below normal for several months already. European politicians say Russia is using high gas prices as leverage in a dispute over the Gazprom-backed Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project.

Gazprom claims to respect its commitments to European customers. Read more

WHERE ELSE CAN EUROPE GET SUPPLY?

Europe depends on Russia for around 35% of its natural gas. Most go through pipelines, including Yamal-Europe, which goes through Belarus and Poland to Germany, Nord Stream 1, which goes directly to Germany, and via Ukraine.

European gas markets are linked by a network of gas pipelines. Most countries have reduced their reliance on Russian gas over the years and there are also more supply routes that bypass Ukraine.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) said Ukrainian transit of Russian gas has been reduced by 70%, from over 140 billion cubic meters (bcm) in 1998 to less than 42 bcm in 2021.

Last year, Ukraine was a transit corridor largely for gas entering Slovakia, from where it continued to Austria and Italy, CSIS added.

The threat of sanctions if Russia invades Ukraine could impact flows through pipelines such as Yamal-Europe, Nord Stream 1 and TurkStream. Nord Stream 2 is awaiting certification before Russian gas can be transported to Germany. Read more

The US government has said Nord Stream 2 will not move forward if Russia invades Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday that the pipeline is a purely commercial project that will enhance Europe’s energy security. Read more

Analysts at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies say other possibilities are that Russia suspends gas sales to Europe in retaliation for sanctions, or that a military conflict damages one of the pipelines that cross the Ukraine to transport gas to Europe.

Some countries have other options. For example, Germany, the largest consumer of Russian gas, can also import from Norway, the Netherlands, Great Britain and Denmark via gas pipelines.

But Norway, Europe’s second largest supplier, is delivering natural gas at full capacity and cannot replace missing supplies from Russia, its prime minister has said.

Southern Europe can receive Azeri gas via the Trans-Adriatic Gas Pipeline to Italy and the Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP) via Turkey.

Neighboring countries can transfer gas through interconnectors, but countries may not want to part with gas they might need and importers would have to pay a high price.

In addition, gas storage levels in Europe are very low for winter, when demand is traditionally highest.

Analysts say “cushion gas” kept in underground storage to maintain pressure levels could theoretically be used in an emergency.

In the longer term, the European Commission has proposed a system allowing EU countries to jointly purchase strategic gas stocks. Read more

LNG imports to northwest Europe, especially from the United States, have increased this year as the price of Dutch gas, the European benchmark, is higher than its Asian counterpart, LNG.

But there is a limit to how much LNG suppliers can produce and transport. Global liquefaction capacity is nearly fully utilized, as are LNG ships, think tank Bruegel said.

Qatar, one of the world’s top LNG producers, could send additional gas to Europe, but reserve supply is limited because most volumes are under contract. Read more

Last week, Japan said it might divert some LNG shipments to Europe. The ships would come from ports in the United States, rather than directly from Japan. Read more

GASLESS OPTIONS

Several countries have options to fill the gap with electricity imports via neighbor interconnectors, or increased electricity generation from nuclear, renewables, hydro or coal.

But nuclear availability is declining in Germany, Britain, Belgium and France due to aging plants, decommissioning, phase-outs and frequent shutdowns.

Under pressure to meet climate targets, several EU countries have shut down old coal-fired power plants or are not building new ones.

Some countries retain coal-fired power stations for emergency supply. Europe has switched from gas to coal since the middle of last year due to high gas prices. Read more

In past crises, countries have introduced measures to reduce industrial production at certain times, pay for emergency generators to turn on the supply, order households to reduce their energy consumption or impose temporary blackouts.

HAS EUROPE’S SUPPLY BEEN DISRUPTED BEFORE?

The last 15 years have seen several disputes between Russia and Ukraine over gas, mainly related to the prices paid.

In 2006, Gazprom cut supplies to Ukraine for one day. During the winter of 2008-2009, Russian supply disruptions spread across Europe.

In 2014, Russia cut off supplies to Kiev after annexing Crimea. Ukraine stopped buying Russian gas in November 2015.

Ukraine has reduced its dependence on direct gas imports from Russia through a reverse flow mechanism, allowing Ukraine to import from EU countries.

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Reporting by Nina Chestney, Nerijus Adomaitis, Nora Buli, Vladimir Soldatkin, Stephen Jewkes, Kate Abnett, Jan Lopatka and Luiza Ilie; Editing by Jan Harvey

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Bonny J. Streater