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Poland tries to detox from Russia’s energy addiction – POLITICO

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WARSAW – As the EU discusses the pace of reducing dependence on Russian energy imports, Poland claims it’s an example of how to do that as it ends its status as a Russian natural gas customer .

“For the past five years we have built the Baltic gas pipeline to Norway and in six months, for the first time in decades, we will be independent of Russian gas,” said Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki. said on Wednesday.

But it will be much more difficult for Poland to cut its need for Russian coal and especially oil.

Poland’s long-term gas supply contract with Russia’s Gazprom expires at the end of this year, and Warsaw has no plans to renew it. Russia currently supplies about 55% of Poland’s annual need of some 21 billion cubic meters of gas.

Poland laid the groundwork for ending Russian gas purchases by first building a liquefied natural gas terminal in the Baltic port of Świnoujście. The terminal, provided by Qatari and US companies, is capable of handling 5 billion bcm of gas and is being expanded to 7.5 bcm by 2023.

The near-complete project of the Polish gas rotation from Moscow is the Baltic Pipe connecting Poland with the offshore gas fields of Norway, with a final capacity of 10 bcm.

Any additional gas demand will come from domestic production and imports through links with Poland’s EU neighbors. At the end of February, Poland and Lithuania agreed to move the GIPL gas pipeline launch date to May 1.

Polish politicians are calling on other EU countries to immediately cut off energy imports from Russia to stop cash transfers to Moscow. Daily counter set up by NGO Europe Beyond Coal calculate that the bloc has sent more than 9 billion euros to Russia since it invaded Ukraine on 24 February.

“Strong and decisive sanctions will hit Russia” make sense because they will affect the Kremlin’s main source of revenue, Polish Climate and Environment Minister Anna Moskwa said. speak earlier this week. “We are working with full responsibility on the imposition of European sanctions on gas, fuel and coal.”

EU leaders meet in Versailles speak Sixth, they will “remove our dependence on imported Russian gas, oil and coal as soon as possible.”

Cost of cold turkey

An immediate end to Russian energy would be very painful for many countries – including Poland. While much progress has been made on natural gas, Poland is still heavily dependent on Russian coal and oil. It has the fourth highest bill for energy imports from Russia of any EU country, sending 15.4 billion euros to Moscow last year.

Mr. Bernard Swoczyna, Warsaw Instrat researcher, said that Russian oil meets two-thirds of Poland’s needs.

“We are more dependent on Russian oil than on their gas. In addition, our largest refinery in Płock is technically and logistically customized to match crude supplies from Russia,” he said.

Warsaw is just beginning to change the status quo. It sold a stake in state-controlled refinery Lotos to Saudi Aramco in a side deal that cleared the way for Lotos’ merger with another state-owned energy giant, PKN Orlen.

“Supply from Saudi Aramco to the Orlen refineries in Poland – and also the Czech Republic and Lithuania – could quadruple in one scenario,” said Robert Tomaszewski, energy market analyst from Polityka. from about 5 million tons annually to 20 million tons. Insight, another think-tank.

“This will reduce Poland’s dependence on Russian oil. Entering the Polish market will also open the door for Saudi Aramco to expand further in the region, so in markets dominated by Russia’s Rosneft,” added Tomaszewski.

Orlen’s oil supply contract with Rosneft runs until 2023.

As well as switching to non-Russian suppliers, Poland must also do a better job of using less oil, Swoczyna said.

“We have neglected rail transport for many years, allowing 90% of goods to be transported by trucks. And that is tearing us apart now. We need to transport more goods by rail, reinvigorate public transport outside of cities and make it easier for people to cycle or walk,” he said.

Although Poland has the largest coal mining industry in the EU, the hard coal it produces is very expensive and private companies buy significant amounts of low-sulfur coal from Russia. Last year Poland imported 8.3 million tons, compared with domestic production of about 54 million tons.

The war is leading to calls to boost coal mining in Poland, which would reverse a decades-long trend of production cuts.

“We have to start reactivating coal mining in Poland,” said former Polish Economy Minister Jerzy Markowski told This week’s wnp.pl news site added: “The drama of the war in Ukraine and the impact of sanctions has dramatically exposed the abstraction and stupidity of European Union energy policy.”

That is not what Brussels wants to hear. Green Deal director Frans Timmermans said last week it might make sense for coal-dependent countries like Poland to continue burning coal longer rather than switching to natural gas before switching to energy. regenerative. However, he warned that if any country took advantage of that to open new coal mines, it would be “an extremely stupid choice”.

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