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South Stream: Is it a bluff or a reality?

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The recent negotiations between Russia n President D. Medvedev and the Turkish Prime-minister R. Erdogan resulted in Mr. Sechin’s (the first vice Prime-minister of the Russian government) statement, that Russia could abandon it’s plans to construct the underwater gas pipeline. As it is known, the Russian Federation is pulling strings for the South Stream project that is to be built at the seabed of the Black Sea from Novorossiysk (Russia) to the Bulgarian port of Varna. Then, two spurs would pass through the Balkan Peninsula to Italy and Austria, though their exact routes are not approved yet. However, one of the main obstacles for the project is the trouble with Turkey’s permission to build the South Stream pipeline through it’s exceptional economic area in the Black Sea. According to Russian analyst Alexander Razuvaev, Turkey has always been very rough partner for Russia in issues concerning the energy resources transit. Most likely Sechin’s statement is one of the elements of bargaining with Turkey, and we simply see further lobbying of the project by Russia. Russian threats to reduce the price of the project by other means, including alternative gas transportation to Europe, for example LNG, are only attempts to influence Turkish side. According to official statement LNG factory could be constructed not only at the Russian Black Sea coast, but also in the North of Russia for Yamal gas. All talks about LNG factory construction are only the bluffing for Turkey. Previously Russia tried to convince Turkey by the carrot and now it’s using the stick, said Mikhail Krutikhin. If the factory is built, there is a need to construct regasification terminals somewhere in Bulgaria or Romania. That is why Yamal LNG factory construction is utopia. The navigation in that area is possible two months a year only, so LNG carrier needs nuclear icebreaker to proceed. Chief of East European Gas Analysis Mikhail Korchemkin adds that LNG carriers navigation through overloaded Bosporus is not the best idea. Besides, the largest Q-Flex and Q-Max classes tankers will not pass Bosporus. However the construction of South Stream has at least two serious problems. The first problem is the so-called EU Third energy package that provides access of all energy companies to the European gas pipelines network: not only the company, that constructs the pipeline, but also the one which can provide gas supplies. It causes serious troubles to Russia which is now trying to reverse this energy package. In other words, if this package remains, there is no sense to build South Stream. Besides, EU recently has made a decision to develop the so-called Southern Energy Corridor, which includes the South Stream pipeline. In fact it means that non-Russian gas will be delivered through pipes constructed by Russians. It is natural that this position does not satisfy Russia and now there are serious debates going on. In this context the project is in trouble. The price of the South Stream project has already tripled in comparison with the initial one – today’s cost has reached almost ten billion Euro. Thus, the project becomes very unprofitable, especially in case the alternative gas sources appear, for example LNG and shale gas. Russia’s desire to strengthen positions in Europe, limit access of competitors and supervise gas supplies from Caspian and Central Asia regions is absolutely natural. Moreover according to arrangements between Moscow and countries of these regions export gas volumes for Europe, bypassing Moscow, should be limited. The South Stream pipeline construction will definitely have negative economical and politica l effect on Europe as a whole and particularly on the states along the pipeline’s route as well as their immediate neighbours. Today the countries on and around South Stream’s planned route rely on Russia for 63 percent of their natural gas imports. In case of the construction of the South Stream pipeline this dependency jumps to 85 %. These figures represent reliance not just upon a single country, but upon a single company: Gazprom . Such a high level of dependency leads to market dysfunction, which would be maintained—and in some cases enhanced—by the construction of South Stream. So, is there any reason for the “old and sage” Europe to lead itself to energy market collapse? In fact there is more real and profitable project - Nabucco . Its construction will significantly reduce dependence of the European countries from Russian gas. The project’s capacity is 31 billion cubic meters. It has no considerable importance for the whole Europe but very essential to countries like Bulgaria, Austria and Romania that could twice reduce their dependency on Russia. In addition the price for gas transportation could be reduced on 30-40 % comparing to the one of South Stream. Besides, Nabucco construction would automatically reduce price of Russian gas for Europe. In other words, with Nabucco, Gazprom will be forced to sell its gas at Nabucco’s price. In addition, the cheaper transport provided by Nabucco would make it more attractive for suppliers such as Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan. The all mentioned above proves that today South Stream is more bluffing than a reality. It is obvious, that it is bluff, which Russia tries to logically complete, but whether it will be completed, it is still an issue.

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By Vladimir Socor

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Autor: Vizitator
Numar de vizualizari: 1374
Numar de cuvinte: 866

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