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 p.c of Bulgaria’s fuel till now, however on April 27, it minimize Bulgaria off after Sofia mentioned it could not renew its contract with Russian fuel big Gazprom on the finish of the 12 months.

Poland mentioned 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,” mentioned Mike Myrianthis, an oil business veteran and analyst.

Bulgaria is now seeking to the Interconnector Greece-Bulgaria, as the brand new pipeline known as, 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 answerable for securing one other nation’s power safety,” mentioned Michalis Mathioulakis, who heads the Greek Power Discussion board, a think-tank.

What provides the IGB strategic significance, nonetheless, is that it may quickly develop into 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 firms introduced that they may construct a floating terminal to import LNG offshore Alexandroupolis, in northern Greece.

This floating storage and regasification unit (FSRU), which is able to re-vaporise liquefied fuel, will connect with the IGB pipeline and begin supplying it on the finish of subsequent 12 months.

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

Curiosity within the venture has prolonged past Bulgaria.

North Macedonia, whose prime minister was additionally in attendance, was reportedly keen on changing 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, informed the Could 3 gathering of regional leaders, “I used to be one of many sceptics who all the time mentioned, ‘It received’t occur’ … Now that we see it’s prepared to start out, I can say we’re actually grateful and we’re ready to obtain comparatively giant portions of fuel.”

Mathioulakis informed 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 changing 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 meanwhile.

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 12 months, it carried out a market check petroleum business circles mentioned was extremely profitable, and an funding resolution is anticipated this 12 months.

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 will likely be ready to totally cowl not solely the Greek market, however to supplant a good portion of Russian pure fuel to the Balkans,” mentioned Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

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

Mitsotakis believed the tasks which might be in superior levels of planning or building could be able to bringing in about 21 billion cubic metres (bcm) of fuel a 12 months. In the course of the subsequent three years, Greece’s consumption has been projected to rise to soak up about half that quantity, leaving about 10bcm a 12 months for export to the Balkans.

The IGB can carry solely 5.5bcm a 12 months, however that would change if Greece sees demand for LNG past the Balkans.

“We’ll see over time what number of EU international locations will demand LNG fuel from Greece by means of this technique,” mentioned Myrianthis.

“It’s clear {that a} second pipeline will likely be made, parallel to IGB … The route is now a given. The land has been appropriated so there are not any bureaucratic hurdles. It’s going to occur in a short time, so you possibly can simply attain 10bcm a 12 months,” he informed Al Jazeera.

Compressors may 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 towards Moscow continues to be to come back, believed Myrianthis.

A Gazprom-led consortium has simply constructed a brand new pipeline traversing Bulgaria and Serbia to achieve Hungary. Moscow supposed it as an extension of Turkish Stream, pumping 15bcm per 12 months of Russian fuel into the Balkans.

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

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

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

Greece is able to play the function 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 power hall is being expanded.

The EU introduced this 12 months that it’ll 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 will even be the conduit for the same cable stretching from Egypt.

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

“Russia has tried to encompass Japanese Europe by means of its power wants in recent times … Putin understands Europe’s strategic power safety as a geopolitical sport to divide Europe and promote his personal coverage.”

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

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