Summer time is travel time!
What about taking a trip to some climate disaster projects across Europe? In 2017, Food & Water Europe took you to some of the most ridiculous and costly gas projects that applied to become part of the EU’s priority list for gas infrastructure, the List of Projects of Common Interest (PCI list). This year, in the brand new 2019 all-inclusive experience, we will take you to some more gas projects that make absolutely no sense and are applying for a spot on the PCI list…
Eastring – a favor to Russian gas suppliers?
First stop of our 2019 De-Tour d’Europe is the Bulgarian-Turkish border. Here, a gigantic pipeline is planned to run across Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary to Slovakia, to reach a final capacity of 40 billion cubic meters by 2028. But this is a gigantic amount compared to the gas demand for this region: the volume Eastring could carry represents far more than the four countries the pipeline would run through have ever consumed. But what’s perhaps even more worrying than the lack of demand for such an expensive (1.5 to over 2 billion EUR) project is the lack of clarity about where this gas will be sourced. The promoter of this huge project seems to have no plan as to which countries will actually supply the pipeline, following a “first build then see how to fill this pipe” approach.
This is highly irresponsible and immediately raises big concerns about whether the billions spent on this gas project will become stranded in the future. Plus, there is the problem that Russia, with its ability to provide large amounts of cheap gas could, once again, profit from a project officially aiming at reducing dependence on Russian gas! One of the main drivers for establishing the PCI list was to avoid situations like the gas crisis in 2006 and 2009 when Russia stopped gas deliveries through Ukraine. Will Russia become the future supplier of the oversized Eastring pipeline which is applying to the PCI list on the basis of the exact opposite justification?
Baltic States: Four big LNG projects proposed for a tiny gas market
Maybe things look better when we travel to the Baltics? Unfortunately, no…
Apparently in the Baltics, gas megalomania is rampant as well. There appears to be a veritable LNG terminal competition going on, with Latvia and Lithuania each proposing LNG terminal projects (a new facility and the purchase of a leased import unit) while Estonia is trying to get two fossil gas import terminals on the PCI list. This does not make sense at all, as the existing LNG terminal in the region is already able to import 80-100% of the gas demand of the three countries combined. Moreover, gas demand in these states is shrinking faster than anywhere else in the EU – it fell by over 33% – and it must continue to decline in order to avoid devastating climate chaos. Thus, the proposed Paldiski and Muuga (both in Estonia) and Riga (in Latvia) LNG terminals make no sense at all.
Juicy detail: only about 22% of capacity of the existing Klaipeda LNG terminal in Lithuania has been utilized since it started operating. But that’s not all: the biggest capacity booked at this terminal is not even for energy purposes – it is allocated to Achema, a Lithuanian fertilizers producer. Gas projects for fertilizers, justified with an energy security excuse? A clear hypocrisy!
Grave energy insecurity – the Eastmed pipeline
Next stop of the gas disaster tour: the Eastern Mediterranean Sea. The Eastmed pipeline, planned to carry gas from the Levantine Basin offshore Cyprus and Israel is probably the clearest epitome of contradiction, pointlessness and even grave negligence of responsibility out of all the projects proposed for the PCI list.
While promising to boost the energy security of Europe by providing access to a new gas supply source, this project is in fact dangerous and irresponsible in many ways. The region from which the gas is supposed to be sourced is already subject to tensions which have been aggravated through previous gas discoveries. Turkey, not recognizing Cypriot waters, sent Turkish military ships to expel drilling vessels contracted by Cyprus; exaggerated sizes of “safety zones” around drilling rigs in Israeli waters limit fisherfolks’ access and lead to measures threatening human rights. There is no doubt that the tensions between Israel, Lebanon and Palestine risk being aggravated by gas exploration or export close to any of these territories’ often-disputed maritime borders. Thus, one can neither talk about security of supply for Europe, nor about security for the people in the regions affected. And as if this wasn’t enough, this pipeline of insecurity and unrest is subject to another layer of uncertainty of a technical nature: the planned route of this extremely expensive project, estimated to cost between 6 and 9 billion EUR, is foreseen to run up to 3000 meters under water, crossing areas with seismic and volcanic activities making it subject to possible landslides. This certainly doesn’t sound like the kind of place to build a pipeline carrying methane, highly toxic for the climate once released.
The last living tentacle of a toxic dying gas octopus called MidCat?
For our final stop, let’s try and find a useful gas project in the far west of Europe, in Portugal. There, a pipeline is planned to connect Spain and Portugal, representing the third such interconnection between the two countries that already have considerable capacities to import LNG. Interestingly, the interconnection, which would also come with a pipeline on Spanish territories to connect to the pipe linked to Portugal, is dependent on another project: MidCat or STEP, a cluster of pipelines linking Spain to France. The only issue: this project cluster is most certainly dead in the water.
Earlier this year, both Spanish and French regulators decided against supporting the expensive interconnection project, which would serve as justification for a host of other pipelines. They rejected the investment request citing lack of necessity and high cost. This also makes the Portuguese tentacle of the MidCat octopus, the third interconnector to Spain, obsolete. But it seems that the promoter of this project still fights for it despite urgently needed action against climate change and the need to phase out all fossil fuels immediately. This is particularly despicable given the project’s location in a region with a huge potential to develop a fair, sustainable and 100% renewable energy model. The Portuguese project can not be considered anything close to a reasonable undertaking.
Whichever corner of Europe one may travel, they would see costly, unnecessary gas projects locking us into another generation of fossil fuels. And what’s more, these projects are all candidates to form part of an EU-wide gas priority list.
People and the planet cannot accept another round of support for climate-wrecking gas projects – Food & Water Europe will fight hard to convince decision makers to remove all gas projects from the priority list. Watch this space in late fall 2019!