Europe’s Gas Game Just Took A Wild Twist

Natural Gas

 

Despite the almost unprecedented divisive nature of Donald J. Trump’s presidency, he is chalking up some impressive foreign policy victories, including finally bringing Beijing to task over its decades long unfair trade practices, stealing of intellectual property rights, and rampant mercantilism that has given its state-run companies unfair trade advantages and as a result seen Western funds transform China to an emerging world power alongside the U.S.

Now, it looks as if Trump’s recent tirade against America’s European allies over its geopolitically troubling reliance on Russian gas supply may also be bearing fruit. On Tuesday, The Wall Street Journal reported that earlier this month German Chancellor Angela Merkel offered government support to efforts to open up Germany to U.S. gas, in what the report called “a key concession to President Trump as he tries to loosen Russia’s grip on Europe’s largest energy market.” Continue reading

Germany Blinks First In Ongoing European Gas War

Nord Stream 2

 

The U.S. is increasingly finding itself at odds against not only Beijing as Trump executes a sledge hammer approach to ongoing trade disputes with China, but also with Moscow, a potentially more lethal and unpredictable opponent both geopolitically and on the energy front.

Much of Washington’s angst with Russia includes the country’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, it’s meddling in recent U.S. elections, being on opposing sides in the ongoing Syrian Civil War and having differing views over energy security for Europe.

Russia, for its part, with its long-entrenched hold on European gas markets, seeks to solidify its grasp by keeping its gas monopoly largely unchallenged and also by pushing through with Russian energy giant Gazprom’s controversial Nord Stream II gas pipeline project. Continue reading

The Altay Pipeline: A Geopolitical Game Changer

Source: BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2018.

 

It is a matter of common knowledge that energy relations between Russia and China have boomed in the past decade, with all sorts of new infrastructure being built to facilitate the ever-further expansion of bilateral energy trade. Yet it has seemed for some time now that new gas projects are very unlikely to happen – the 38 BCm per year Power of Siberia pipeline will go onstream December 20, 2019 and seemed to satiate China‘s needs for Russian gas – but that has now changed. A second project, generally denoted as the Altay pipeline (sometimes also mentioned as Power of Siberia-2), which had been stalled for four years due to limited demand and Gazprom’s sanctions-induced constraints, is set to be the next big Russo-Chinese gas project. Continue reading

The U.S. Dollar: A Victim of Its Own Success

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America’s most powerful weapon of war does not shoot, fly or explode. It’s not a submarine, plane, tank or laser. America’s most powerful strategic weapon today is the dollar.

The U.S. uses the dollar strategically to reward friends and punish enemies. The use of the dollar as a weapon is not limited to trade wars and currency wars, although the dollar is used tactically in those disputes. The dollar is much more powerful than that.

The dollar can be used for regime change by creating hyperinflation, bank runs and domestic dissent in countries targeted by the U.S. The U.S. can depose the governments of its adversaries, or at least blunt their policies without firing a shot. Continue reading

Russia Just Won Big In The European Gas War

LNG carrier

 

There’s been a lot of talk on both sides of the Atlantic about the U.S. pivot and efforts at locking in natural as market share in Europe. Much of this comes amid President Donald Trump’s so-called American energy independence push as well as both U.S. and several EU members thrust to wean Europe off of geopolitically charged Russian gas.

In fact, Trump has pushed for U.S.-sourced LNG to become so much of the EU’s energy security that several European states, particularly Germany, have accused the president of playing energy geopolitics, cloaking American concern for European energy security under the guise and to the benefit of U.S. LNG producers.

Now, however, Trump and U.S. LNG exporters will have an even harder time convincing key EU members to offset overreliance on Russian piped gas with U.S. LNG. Continue reading

Germany starts to build Nord Stream 2

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Danish and Swedish permits still pending (Photo: nord-stream2.com)

 

Germany has started to pour concrete on a Russian gas pipeline that risks dividing the EU and harming its energy security.

The construction began in Lubmin, on Germany’s Baltic Sea coast, on Thursday (3 May), with the laying of foundations for a terminal that will receive 55bn cubic metres (bcm) a year of Russian gas via the Nord Stream 2 pipeline when it goes online in 2020. Continue reading

In a blow to Trump, Europe seeks gas supplies from Iran

The European Commission vice-president for energy union,Maros Sefcovic, said during a visit to Azerbaijan last week that the European Union was ready to negotiate Iran’s participation in the Southern Gas Corridor (SGC), a system of pipelines designed to pump Azerbaijani gas from the Caspian region to southern Italy via Georgia, Turkey, Greece and Albania.

The European bloc is keen to get its hands on Iranian gas and has already held talks with Tehran on the issue. This means it is unlikely that the EU will budge on its opposition to US President Donald Trump’s demands for revising the Iran nuclear deal. Continue reading

The REAL Russia Scandal

MELISSA BARREIRO/TRUMPET

 

Is Vladimir Putin trying to strengthen the Trump presidency—or weaken it?

Claims that United States President Donald Trump secretly cooperated with Russia to steal the 2016 United States presidential election have been making headlines for over a year. New allegations seem to come out every week, but none of them are backed up by proof against the president.

WikiLeaks published 19,252 e-mails hacked from the accounts of seven key Democratic National Committee staff members on July 22, 2016. These staff members are chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chief executive officer Amy Dacey, chief financial officer Brad Marshall, communications director Luis Miranda, press secretary Mark Paustenbach, broadcast media director Pablo Manriquez and finance director Jordan Kaplan.

The e-mails revealed that under Schultz’s leadership, key officials within the Democratic Party worked to sabotage the presidential campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders so Hillary Clinton would win the party nomination. Many Sanders supporters were outraged. Schultz apologized and resigned in disgrace. Continue reading

Wintershall warns U.S. against playing ‘geopolitical football.’

 

German energy company Wintershall, a European partner with Russia’s Gazprom, said the European energy sector can’t be used for “geopolitical football.”

President Donald Trump on Wednesday signed a bill into law that sanctions Iran, North Korea and Russia. The Russian measure in particular is significant given the election issue clouding the Trump administration. Continue reading

EU “Sounds Alarm” Over New US Sanctions On Russia; Germany Threatens Retaliation

Late on Friday, Congressional negotiators reached a deal to advance a bill that would punish Russia for its interference in the 2016 election and restrict the president’s power to remove sanctions on Moscow, according to the WSJ. The measure, if signed into law, will also give Congress veto powers to block any easing of Russian sanctions by the president. And while it remained unclear if President Donald Trump would sign the bill if it reaches his desk, which is now likely, the loudest complaint about the bill to date has emerged noe from the Oval Office, but from Brussels, after the EU once again urged (and warned, and threatened) US lawmakers to coordinate their anti-Russia actions with European partners, or else. Continue reading

U.S., Russia Vie For European Gas Dominance

Trump

 

WASHINGTON: U.S. legislation renewing and tightening sanctions on Russia, stalled in the House of Representatives, was not passed before the U.S. and Russian presidents met at the G20 summit in Hamburg. The proposed bill had already received criticism not only from Russia but also from Germany and Austria about the impact sanctions may have on Europe’s gas supply.

Europe and the United States need not worry: Energy markets have undergone significant transformation in favor of importers, and Russia’s tough talk warning against sanctions is little more than posturing. Russia needs Europe as a market for its oil and gas. Continue reading

After Poland, Lithuania Becomes U.S. LNG Buyer

 

Seeking to diversify its gas imports away from Russia’s giant Gazprom, Lithuania’s state-held gas trader Lietuvos Duju Tiekimas said on Monday that it had signed a deal with Cheniere Marketing International to buy LNG directly from the U.S., adding to the growing list of customers of America’s LNG cargoes.

The Lithuanian company expects to receive the first LNG cargo delivery in the second half of August. Continue reading

Russia to build controversial artificial islands in arctic for gas industry

A Qatari-flagged LNG tanker crosses through the Suez Canal. Photo: Reuters

 

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev signs agreement on construction, though analysts puzzled as the location is far from natural gas field

Russia plans to build four artificial islands in the arctic Barents Sea to serve the natural gas industry, though analysts are puzzled by the location as it’s far from a gas field, while environmentalists warn of pollution dangers.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev signed an agreement on June 17 to build the islands in Kola Bay of the Barents Sea at an estimated cost of $420 million. They are expected to come into use from 2020. Continue reading

Germany, Austria vs. US Senate: America and Europe on Collision Course

 

Germany and Austria have lashed out against US Senate for approving a legislation tightening sanctions on Russia. The bill has a provision that enables the United States to impose sanctions on European firms involved in financing Russian energy export pipelines to Europe. European companies could be fined for breaching US law. In a joint statement, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel and Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern accused the US of threatening European economic interests, describing it as an illegal attempt to boost US gas exports. The United States recently started shipping liquefied natural gas to Poland and has ambitions to cultivate other European customers.

The bill says the US government «should prioritize the export of United States energy resources in order to create American jobs, help United States allies and partners, and strengthen United States foreign policy». But the European foreign chiefs believe that «Europe’s energy supply is Europe’s business, not that of the United States of America». Gabriel and Kern said they «can’t accept» proposed US sanctions targeting European energy companies as part of measures against Russia.

Continue reading

Is A Russian-Iranian Energy Pact In The Making?

Oil Rigs

 

In the lead-up to President Rouhani’s visit to Moscow, expected to take place in late March, a plethora of news regarding joint Russo-Iranian energy projects has been circulating on the Internet. A three-year long negotiation process regarding a 100,000 barrels-per-day swap contract is believed to be agreed upon, premised on Iran providing Russia (most likely, Rosneft) oil from Kharg Island or other hubs in the Persian Gulf in return for cash and Russian goods that Iran would “require”. Teheran also woos LUKOIL, currently Russia’s only major oil producer in the Caspian, to participate in swap deals bound for Iran’s Neka Port (in return for Iranian crude provided from Kharg Island or other Persian Gulf hubs), albeit on a much smaller scale at 4000 to 5000 barrels per day. To top it all up, numerous Russian oil companies have committed themselves to developing Iran’s hydrocarbon fields. Continue reading