Poland and Bulgaria start life without Russian gas – POLITICO

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No Russian gas comes through pipelines in Poland and Bulgaria, but both countries say they are doing fine without an energy link to Moscow.

“Poland is an energy-secure country that does not have to and will not give in to gas blackmail by Russia,” said Polish Climate and Environment Minister Anna Moskwa called On Wednesday.

Also the Bulgarian Energy Minister Alexander Nikolov called that the loss of Russian gas will not cause much concern. “It is clear that natural gas is currently being used more as a political and economic weapon in the current war.”

Poland consumes about 20 billion cubic meters of gas annually, of which 9.9 billion cubic meters come from Russia through the Yamal pipeline. But unlike Germany, that generated about 15 percent of its electricity from gas Poland gets most of its electricity from coal, while gas is used by industry and for household purposes.

Poland’s 1996 contract with Gazprom expires at the end of this year, and the country has long said it has no intention of renewing it. Instead, Warsaw has been working to diversify its supplies for years.

PGNiG, the state-controlled Polish oil and gas company, said its customers will not face supply shortages. “Currently, despite Gazprom’s suspension of supplies, PGNiG customers receive gas according to their demand.”

“The existing network accesses … enable the balancing of the gas network without feeds from the east”, called Gaz-System, Poland’s gas transmission system operator.

Poland’s gas storage facilities are almost 80 percent full, it has a liquefied natural gas terminal on the Baltic Sea, interconnectors with Germany and the Czech Republic and a new pipeline connection to Lithuania, which is scheduled to start on Sunday. The Baltic Pipe, which connects Poland to Norway’s gas fields in the North Sea, is scheduled to go on stream in October.

“Right now, there don’t seem to be any major supply risks,” said Robert Tomaszewski, senior energy analyst at Polityka Insight, a Polish think tank. But Poland’s situation would be more difficult if Russia turned off the taps of other EU countries like Germany, which gets most of its Russian gas through the undersea Nord Stream pipeline.

“If it turns out that Berlin refuses [to pay in rubles] and the Russians shut down Nord Stream 1, then we have a bigger problem. It would not lead to gas supply disruptions in Poland, but prices would skyrocket even more, increasing costs for everyone: households, industry,” he said.

Although Bulgaria’s situation is more difficult than Poland’s, it also had no plans to extend its Gazprom contract beyond this year.

The country imports almost 3 billion cubic meters of gas from Russia annually, about 90 percent of its gas needs, almost entirely via the TurkStream pipeline, which runs under the Black Sea from Russia to Turkey and then on to the EU. Its stores have a capacity of about 17 percent, which, according to Nikolov, is enough for a month’s consumption.

“We have secured quantities [of gas] for a reasonably foreseeable period of time. In the meantime, we will discuss deliveries, transport routes and further volumes with the European Commission,” said Nikolov.

Bulgaria too imported about 0.5 bcm of gas from Azerbaijan via the Southern Gas Corridor, and these deliveries are expected to increase once the Greece-Bulgaria interconnector becomes operational in July. Sofia is also eyeing potential LNG shipments from Greece and Turkey; A Greek Energy Ministry official said Bulgaria has already booked some LNG cargoes to be delivered via the Revithoussa LNG terminal outside Athens.

Like Poland, Bulgaria does not generate much electricity from gas and relies largely on nuclear power, coal and renewable energy.

“Everything should be fine in the short term,” said Atanas Pekanov, an economist at the Austrian Institute for Economic Research and former Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister. “Yes, industry will suffer, but government can always intervene… There will be economic losses… but they should not be catastrophic.”

Although he predicted there would be no supply shortages, Pekanov warned that the Russian disruption could push up prices. “It will definitely drive prices even higher. I think it will be bad for households, but again, it’s not catastrophic.”

It is crucial that the interconnector currently under construction with Greece is completed on schedule.

“If that happens, things should go relatively well. If that doesn’t happen, next winter could be more difficult, because then there could even be bottlenecks,” said Pekanov.

Nektaria Stamouli contributed to the coverage.

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