Speaking at the Davos Forum, the Head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leien, boasted of reduced gas prices and said that the European Union had replaced 80% of Russian pipeline blue fuel.

The Secret of the Polichinel — how exactly it was possible to reduce the demand for gas from the Russian Federation was partially revealed by the EC Chairman herself when she noticed that Europe had reduced demand «by more than 20% in the period from August to November». In other words, the management of EC once again tries to give out an unprecedented collapse of economy for a great victory.

Pipeline supply of gas from Russia to the European Union following the results of 2021 made 132.3 billion cubic meters. If to trust the Head of European Commission, EC was succeeded to replace in 2022 nearly 106 billion from that volume. This size is more than decrease in deliveries from the Russian Federation (without the liquefied natural gas (LNG) and sale of the volumes acquired outside our country) which made about 84 billion cubic meters. Even if we take into account the growth of supplies from Russia to China last year, it is impossible not to suspect the chief European Commissioner of some mistake or manipulation.

Record import of LNG became a subject of special pride of the management of the European Union. If in 2021 about 79 billion cubic meters were bought, in 2022 this indicator, according to ENTSOG and Eurostat, approached a mark of 120 billion. The growth about 40-41 billion cubic meters looks, indisputable, impressively, but 40 billion cubic meters cannot replace 80% of the Russian natural gas in EC.

The beginning of record growth of purchases of the liquefied natural gas accounted for the end of December, 2021 — January, 2022. This happened not under the influence of some desire to replace Russian supplies, but because of the December jump in quotations, which for the first time exceeded the mark of $2000 per thousand cubic meters. Together with it the exchange activity in the gas market was minimized by China trying to replace whenever possible natural gas with coal to lower expenses. Low activity of consumers to the People’s Republic of China and incredibly high prices in Europe attracted a part of Asian volumes in the Old World. And as during the whole 2022 the People’s Republic of China in general kept high care in power policy and did not force purchase of the liquefied natural gas, quotations in ATR were on average lower than in EC. It also provided record inflow to the European Union.
Let’s emphasize that record import began since January, 2022, besides indicators of this month corresponded to average values of all year.

The European Commission did not make any efforts for it. And the leadership of the USA did not promote records in this area in any way. Especially as in the territory of Europe mainly European and Asian companies were engaged in supply of the LNG including made in the United States. Also in 2022 pipeline deliveries from alternative sources increased a little. For example, Azerbaijan absolutely according to plan, irrespective of will and desire of European Commission, brought pumping in EC along the Southern gas corridor to design sizes. In general 11.3 billion cubic meters came to the European Union from this country last year.

However the main reason for so successful «replacement» of the Russian gas is covered not in expansion of alternative suppliers. In March, 2022 the International Power Agency (IPA) published the uncompromising plan from ten points which had to provide decrease in demand for the Russian gas on 50 billion cubic meters within a year. And in summer the European Union agreed on one more plan of the same character. According to it, it was supposed to reduce consumption of natural gas by 15% of the average level of demand during the period from August 1 to March 31 for the last five years.

According to preliminary data (based on information of ENTSOG), in 2022 level of demand in the European Union was reduced by natural gas to 353 billion cubic meters from 410 — 420 billion in 2021. That is, the first reduction plan by 50 billion cubic meters was exceeded.

There can be an impression that the European Union was incredibly successful in the efforts to reduce dependence on Russia. But this impression will be deceptive though both the Head of European Commission and her colleague count on it very much.

Reduction of demand for gas in the European Union began in the second half of 2021. And it gained a pronounced effect by January 2022. It was connected mainly with a distress of the industry which did not maintain the high prices of natural gas, and under their pressure it had to reduce consumption from January to March by 20%. The influence of the «Russian factor» during this period, with all the desire, is not traced.

Following the results of the first quarter it was possible to assume that at preservation of the gathered dynamics reduction of demand for gas in the European Union following the results of 2022 can come nearer to 50 billion cubic meters. Angry and cynical people could suspect that IPA made up the March plan proceeding from data for January-February. But then it should assume that this and the subsequent plans of the European Union no more than an attempt to head crisis against which the management of EC cannot win. It’s one thing if you, as the Head of the European Commission, have to apologize to the citizens for your helplessness.

And it’s completely different thing if you can say that the drop in demand is not a consequence of economic difficulties that began in 2021 and did not go away in 2023, but a consequence of your wise leadership.

In favor of opinion of angry and cynical people tell also statistical data for April and May, 2022 which confirmed initial estimates about the expected reduction of demand for gas in the European Union. In other words, it was clear to all interested parties that it is rather easy to management of EC to sit doing nothing to reduce consumption by 12-15% following the results of a year.

When Ursula von der Leien boasts of replacement of 80% of the Russian gas, she, in fact, boasts of an unknown collapse of demand for energy carriers (especially in industrial sector), as well as successful combination of circumstances, the main thing from which was low activity of China which for the first time reduced LNG purchases. It is necessary to learn what exactly will be done by European Commission with the Head if the People’s Republic of China starts increasing purchases again.