Tuesday, June 20, 2006


Europe draws energy from three locations; the North Sea, where Britain, Norway and the Netherlands drill for oil and gas; Russia, who supplies oil and gas via pipelines through Ukraine; and Algeria and Morrocco, who supply gas via pipelines beneath the Mediterranean to France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Slovenia and Greece.

As the North Sea stores get exhausted, Britain will need to draw energy from the east and the south. Our geographic location on the north-western fringe of Europe is a disadvantage. Unless all pipelines are widened considerably, they simply won't carry enough energy to reach us (as the countries nearest to the source draw out the gas first).

Last September, Russia signed a $5.7 billion deal with Germany to lay a 1,200-kilometer gas pipeline with an annual capacity of 55 billion cubic meters connecting Russia's Black Sea coast, through international waters offshore Poland and the Baltic states, with Greifswald on Germany's coast. This pipeline can be extended from Germany to Britain via the North Sea, relieving our shortage.

Unfortunately becoming reliant on Russia doesn't fill one with confidence, given the games they played in the winter with Ukraine's fuel.

The Americans thought they could by-pass Russia by building the Baku-Ceyhan (BTC) oil pipeline (from Azerbaijan through Georgia to Turkey), which has cost US$2 billion. (And from Turkey the oil could then be piped into Europe). But according to the Asia Times this pipeline may depend on "the volume of Kazakh oil on this route. But Kazakhstan is fighting shy of committing to a Trans-Caspian pipeline, which the US is seeking, for linking the BTC with Kazakh oil fields. Simply put, Kazakhstan will not ride roughshod over Russian interests."

Even worse, a new "Alternative OPEC" might be being formed. Again, from the Asia Times, "The SCO [Shanghai Co-operation Organisation] was created in Shanghai on June 15, 2001, by Russia and China along with four former Soviet Central Asian republics, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. ... At the next SCO meeting on June 15, Iran will be invited to become a full SCO member. " India and Pakistan also attend SCO as observers and are keen to become full members. The USA asked if they could attend as an observer and was refused. The SCO is seeking to divert Kazakh and Iranian oil and gas eastwards towards China (and India).

Meanwhile, Russia has been eyeing the reserves south of the Med. According to this article, "Russian companies have been given monopoly rights for oil production in the Sahara Desert; Russia's Gazprom will participate in the development and production of Algeria's gas sector; and Algeria will share with Russia its sophisticated Western technologies in gas liquefaction. Most important, Russia and Algeria decided to work together in the European market. " - this deal came together after Russia agreed to provide $7.5 billion worth of arms to Algeria which will be paid for by the oil and gas rights in Algeria. Russia is seeking to gain a monopoly on all energy going into Europe.

Why am I recounting all of this? Quite simply, we are going to get stuffed if we don't find alternatives to North Sea gas that don't involve Russia, Central Asia or the Sahara. Mr Blair is right when he says we need nuclear power - it's clean, and the world's biggest suppliers of Uranium are Australia and Canada, friendly countries. France, which generates 80% of her electricity through nuclear power, has proved that modern version of the technology is safe. By all means let's have wind-power, tidal power, energy-efficiency drives etc as well - but don't let's kid ourselves that we can get by without nuclear power.

1 comment:

dizzy said...

Wrong. If we solve energy waste then there is no energy gap. We ewaste almost a thrid of energy due to centralised distribution centres.