Is cancelling Nordstream 2 really a deterrent?
9 December 2021 | Philip Ammerman
Newspaper reports this week have been filled with reported threats to cancel the Nordstream 2 natural gas pipeline, which runs under the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany, in case Russia invades Ukraine.
As with so many other public policy positions taken by western countries, this is a largely symbolic gesture which will have little impact on the underlying situation.
Let’s look at the facts.
The European Union (EU) consumed a total of 394 billion cubic meters (bcm) of natural gas in 2020. EU domestic production was only 54 bcm, or 14% of total consumption.
Net gas imports to the EU in 2020 were 326 bcm. Of these, Gazprom exported 175 bcm, or 44% of the total. Russian pipeline imports were 128 bcm (32% of total consumption) while Russian Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) imports were 17 bcm (4% of total consumption).
So there are three key points to remember here:
Russia already accounts for 44% of natural gas consumption in the EU;
There is already a Nordstream 1 pipeline in operation, which delivered 52 bcm in 2020, or 13% of total EU consumption;
Terminating Nordstream 2, which is ready but not yet licensed for operation due to a contrived formality, will simply remove an estimated 55 bcm of future capacity, not current supply.
Given that Europe will remain a net gas and energy importer for decades, and given that Russia already provides 44% of total EU gas by consumption, it should be clear that the threat to terminate Nordstream 2 is a largely empty threat in terms of the present situation.
I see no indication in the reporting of the far greater threat: even a small reduction in Russian gas supplies to Europe—for example, by turning off natural gas supplies via Ukraine—would result in an immediate energy and economic crisis in Europe.
Are politicians and journalists aware of this fact?
EU Natural Gas Consumption and Supply
* Gazprom reports natural gas exports to Europe of 174.9 bcm. The EU records that Russia accounted for 48% of total natural gas imports in 2020. I am displaying Russian natural gas imports as a share of total EU consumption.
European Commission DG Energy. 2021. Quarterly Report on European Gas Markets. [Online]. Available at: https://ec.europa.eu/energy/sites/default/files/quarterly_report_on_european_gas_markets_q4_2020_final.pdf. Accessed on 9 December 2021.
Gazprom. 2021. Gas Marketing in Europe. [Online]. Available at: https://www.gazprom.com/about/marketing/europe/. Accessed on 9 December 2021.
Contact Info & Bio
Philip Ammerman is a consultant in the fields of investment advisory and digital transformation. He is the founder of Navigator Consulting Group and the Centre for Innovation & Entrepreneurship. Philip is based in Limassol, Cyprus.