Poland and Bulgaria assure that they have gas reserves and supply alternatives against the Russian cut | International

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Russia has cut the gas tap this Wednesday to Poland and Bulgaria for not paying in rubles, as required by the Kremlin. The two countries that receive, respectively, 50% and 75% of their gas imports from Russia, assure that they will not give in to Moscow’s “blackmail” and rule out immediate effects in the face of the abrupt supply cut.

Poland had been preparing for some time to become independent from Russian gas and the Government assures that the cut will not affect consumers. Bulgaria has reserves for one month. Both announced legal measures against Gazprom for breach of contract. “From February 25, the day after the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Poland began to fill its reserves, which are at 76%”, explains Wojciech Jakóbik. BiznesAlert’s energy analyst points out that this stored gas can cover demand for two months. In addition, he points out that the country has secured other sources of supply, because Russia has not been considered “a reliable supplier” for a long time.

“This is a direct attack on Poland, revenge for the sanctions imposed on Russia by our country,” Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said Wednesday in an appearance in the Lower House of the Polish Parliament collected by Gazeta Wyborcza. On Tuesday, the Polish government had announced new sanctions on 50 Russian people and companies. “I want to assure you that this blackmail will not affect Polish households,” the prime minister said, adding that “from autumn, Poland will not need Russian gas at all.” In a subsequent press conference, Morawiecki announced that “gas prices for homes will be regulated until 2027″. Polish President Andrzej Duda also assured “that appropriate legal action will be taken against Gazprom for violating the provisions of the gas supply contract.”

A similar message came from Sofia. “The government is prepared for a scenario where Gazprom cuts off gas supplies. I want to assure Bulgarian citizens that there will be no reduction in supply to consumers,” Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov also assured at the Council of Ministers meeting on Wednesday, according to a statement. “The Ministry of Energy has a clear action plan, which includes alternative sources of supply,” added the same text, without offering more details about them. “The suspension of natural gas by Gazprom is a serious violation of the contract and blackmail for the use of a non-contractual payment plan in rubles through third parties, which does not guarantee the supply in exchange for the money invested by the Bulgarians” .

“If there is no cataclysm, the supply is guaranteed”

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The Polish Secretary of State for Strategic Energy Infrastructures, Piotr Naimski, promised the Poles that “there will be gas”. “If there is no cataclysm, under predictable conditions, the gas supply in Poland is guaranteed,” he said in an interview on RMF FM radio collected by the Onet digital media. Warsaw had been preparing for six years to unplug from Russia in December, when its contract with Gazprom ended, according to Naimski.

The demand for gas in Poland is 20,000 million cubic meters per year, and with the addition of the alternative sources to Russia that it has sought, it can obtain between 15,000 and 25,000 million per year, according to the BiznesAlert analyst. Jakóbik explains by phone that Poland’s domestic gas production is expected to reach 3.8 billion cubic meters in 2022. The Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) terminal in Świnoujście can import up to 6.3 billion cubic meters a year. From May 1, 2,000 will be available through the Poland-Lithuania gas pipeline, it continues. An additional 6 billion cubic meters will start flowing from Slovakia in July this year. From the Czech Republic will arrive 500 million. The reverse connection of the Yamal gas pipeline, the one that Russia has cut this Wednesday, can supply up to 5,500, he adds. And there is also the Baltic gas pipeline, which is expected to start partially operating soon.

Bulgaria-Greece connection

“Bulgaria is not in the same situation as Poland”, the expert points out, but despite everything, “it also wanted to leave that dependency by the end of 2022”. Its demand is considerably less than Poland’s, at about 3 billion cubic meters a year, according to the European Commission. In the last four months, assures the Bulgarian Government, they have focused their efforts on “the Greek gas connection, which will be built at the end of June”.

“Generally there is concern, but the problem can be solved,” Ivan Hinovski, president of the Bulgarian Energy Forum, says with some optimism over the phone. “The government has a plan B that it will announce soon,” he says, although he does not know the details. In his opinion, Bulgaria needs to take advantage of the summer months when consumption drops to save energy, develop renewables, use sources such as propane in industries where possible, and research the country’s natural resources. In the short term, Bulgaria can count on “energy from Greece and natural gas from Turkey”, he adds.

This Wednesday the prime ministers of Bulgaria and Greece spoke by phone, according to Reuters. Greek sources quoted by the agency say that Athens could help its neighbor by reversing the flow of the TurkStream gas pipeline, which carries Russian gas to Greece through the Black Sea, Turkey and Bulgaria. A source from the Greek Ministry of Energy reported that Bulgaria has contracted LNG to be delivered to the Revithoussa terminal in Athens. Sofia is in talks with Azerbaijan to increase imports from this supplier.

The contingency plans are more or less up and running, but the expert Jakobik wonders about the real intentions behind the cut of the Russian faucet. An obvious one, he thinks, is the classic “divide and rule”, because this Wednesday it became clear that two Member States have not complied with the new requirements of payment in rubles, and questions arise among the rest. The analyst believes, however, that “the gas could flow again if a new agreement is reached on a payment scheme.” He further points out that there are sufficient grounds to build a case and sue Gazprom for breach of contract.

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