January 2024 showed that Europe is already regretting about refusal of large-scale purchases of the Russian gas. Despite the accumulated record reserves of raw materials, in the first month of the year the countries of the continent increased the import of «blue fuel» from our country by more than 40%. The cold winter required the West to increase the consumption of energy resources, which led to the emptying of storage facilities.

Compared to January 2023, in the first month of this year, Russian gas supplies to European countries increased 1.4 times to 2.52 billion cubic meters. The current exports, of course, cannot be compared to previous times, when monthly sales to the EU were 5 times higher. Meanwhile, according to Sergey Pravosudov, Director of the Institute of National Energy, by refusing our «blue fuel» Europeans «shot themselves in the foot» and now face significant problems in providing energy resources.

–What is the reason for the increase in Russian pipeline gas supplies?

– First, a cold winter. The average temperature in January in Europe was -10°C, which is 5°C below normal. In some countries and regions of the continent, temperatures dropped to -30°C. Secondly, the conflict in the Red Sea posed a new threat to EU energy supplies, mainly LNG. Many LNG tankers have to barrage around the dangerous area for fear of coming under fire, a number of ships have made the long journey around southern Africa, and some deliveries have already been canceled.

– Can we hope for a continuation of this trend?

–It is no secret that the largest gas distribution hub in Europe, located in the Austrian town of Baumgarten, was created and until recently worked mainly with Russian raw materials. The infrastructure of this facility was built for supplies from our country. Supplies went not only to Austria and Germany, but also to other EU states. Stopping or reducing the distribution of raw materials through Baumgarten would hit the revenues of European businesses and reduce the number of jobs.

– So Europe is not against the expansion of Russian gas purchases, even despite the sanctions?

– A number of the countries, first of all Austria, insist on increase in import of pipeline natural gas from Russia, including via Ukrainian gas pipelines. For this purpose it is necessary to change the mechanism of deliveries: Gazprom does not sell raw materials directly to Ukraine, but keeps contracts with many EU participants: the contract is signed with the same Austria till 2040. Russia delivers raw materials to Ukraine’s eastern border, and then pays for pumping hydrocarbons through the territory of Ukraine. At the same time, Moscow is responsible for transit. If the Russian monopoly agrees with European buyers to sell hydrocarbons on the eastern border of Ukraine, the buyers will bear the risks for pumping through Ukrainian pipelines. By the way, Austria is not against this option.

– Does Russia in principle need a European sales market in the current geopolitical conditions?

– Of course it does. Russia has significant infrastructural capacity to export raw materials through a sustainable and long-established channel. If the EU assumes responsibility for transit through Ukraine, Kiev’s obstacles to increasing supplies are likely to be eliminated. It is worth noting that a «peace treaty» regarding the export of Russian pipeline raw materials to buyers in the Old World will still be concluded in some form. Such an agreement would benefit Europe, which would reduce its energy import costs.

–  But EU countries already showed that can do without «the Russian fuel»…

– It is doubtful that purchases of feedstock from alternative producing regions, with which the EU filled its underground gas storage facilities in 2023, will continue at last year’s volumes. Obviously, LNG deals are much more expensive and also fall under the risks of delivery disruption. In turn, Europeans have not yet succeeded in replacing «blue fuel» with renewable energy sources. Even after building a huge number of wind and solar power plants, the continent’s residents will not protect themselves from power outages. From time to time there are periods when there is a «period of dark calm»: the wind does not blow or the sun does not shine. In such cases, Europe cannot do without gas, and the cheapest raw materials can only be bought in our country.