Winter Outlook for Europe

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After the accident on North Stream 1 and North Stream 2 pipelines the energy balance has changed dramatically. Investigation is not over yet, but there are some hints on main beneficiaries. Despite the fact that gas storage facilities are filled up to 90%, there is still a danger of gas shortage. Storage is used as an additional source in case the regular supplies are delayed or the weather is extremely cold.

▪️The German Federal Network Agency (Bundesnetzagentur) has changed its assessment of the weather situation in the country from “stable” to “tense”, according to a daily overview of the country’s gas supply situation.

▪️The Economist published a statistical model attempting to evaluate how many people could die of cold across Europe. According to their approximation up to 147,000 people can become victims of cold. In comparison to death toll from extremal heat this summer, that reached 20,000, this number is large. But in comparison with 2,283,000 COVID-19 deaths in EU it looks different.

▪️Low temperatures definitely affect death rate, especially for old people living in cities. People start moving less, viruses become more resilient, breath and cardiovascular problems are forming a combination difficult to deal with. But the exerts of The Economist are pointing out that as “the body’s temperature falls, blood thickens and its pressure rises, raising the risk of heart attacks and strokes”. That’s a debatable point. Blood changes its density only when its chemical composition is altered. When temperature drops, blood vessels simply shrink and peripheral circulation slows down, saving body heat. But blood chemical composition is indeed altered as side-effect of the vaccination. And we saw many research data proofing that blood after vaccination becomes more dense and this is the primarily cause of cardiovascular problems, including strokes and heart attacks that eventually result lethal in many cases. Taking this into consideration we can assume that “deaths from cold” are very convenient way to hide deaths from vaccination. If we look at the COVID-19 death toll we see that a lot of people will face cardiovascular problems in the coming years.

▪️How did we find ourselves in this point?

If we try to look just a little further than mass-media messages blaming Putin, we’ll see many structural problems that have been accumulating in EU for decades. Instead of developing conventional energy sources, billions were invested in green agenda. For specialists it’s clear that any green source is not for industrial use. The main limitation of all renewables is fluctuating generation. Industry instead must rely on stable energy sources.

For Germany it ended up with return to coal generation. France underinvested its nuclear reactors fleet for decades, and lost over 50% of nuclear generation in the end. Finland is facing a deep generation crisis after problems with its nuclear plant Olkiluoto 3. Other EU countries that followed the green agenda at the expense of traditional energy are dealing with the same problems. Over 20 years of going green had a strange outcome: US is selling to EU fossil fuels at sky-high prices.


▪️Can EU manage this energy emergency with LNG terminals?

It can be a solution. But there are some problems. The price of LNG at the Henry Hub, for instance, is hovering over the $2000 level, peaking sometimes to $3500 per 1000 cubic meters of gas. It can hardly be called affordable, especially in comparison with long term pipeline gas contracts. But there is competition for LNG even at these prices. Asian market has been traditionally relying on LNG, while EU faced this situation for the first time. Germany won the battle for some LNG with India, but later China took all Qatar LNG signing a multi-year contract. Egypt can increase supply to Europe just by 8 million mt/year. Finland has to share an LNG terminal with Estonia. In Italy local social movements are opposing to terminal construction. Terminals in Spain are too distant from the main consumers in Germany. France and Germany are trying to strengthen energy cooperation exchanging gas for electricity. But it cannot help to fix overall EU energy balance.

▪️New pipelines?

Algeria needs investment and time, as well as other African countries to increase gas supplies on the EU market. Sea gas exploration on the Israeli and Lebanon shelf has just been started. And gas from there will go to Egypt facilities to make LNG. Azerbaijan is pushing hard on supply increase via its pipeline system, but the disposable gas volume is still relatively small. Poland is trying to control Germany through Baltic Pipe. This project can hardly cover needs of both countries. Local pipeline projects in the Baltic states are dependent either on LNG supplies or on the Baltic Pipe gas reverse.

But there are still couple of options. First is to persuade Norway to provide more gas to the EU market at lower prices. This definitely will not make happy Norway people and government, but it’s worth trying. The second option is to put into operation the huge Groningen gas field. A side effect is uncontrollable seismic activity in Western Europe.

▪️This brief review of the situation in Europe gives quite a pessimistic outlook. Although in South Europe the effects of structural problems can be mitigated, the situation is far from being under control. The EU governments right now are making hard decisions on de-industrialisation. Main energy consumers are industrial plants. And there is no way to save both industry and people. Blaming Putin for our mistakes is not the way out. More professional approach is needed. If the problems above are not addressed now, the situation will remain the same in the coming years.


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