Opinion

S&P Global Platts - Factbox: Syrian Crisis Shines Spotlight on Russian Energy in Europe


The risk of a direct military confrontation between the US and Russia over Syria has raised energy security concerns in Europe.

Oil prices touched three-and-half year highs above $72 b/d after US President Donald Trump signaled a possible military response to alleged chemical weapons attacks near Damascus.

Syria oil and natural gas infrastructure

The regime of President Bashar al-Assad is supported by Iran and Russia, which maintains thousands of military advisers in the country.

Higher crude prices pushed up the price of gas in Europe, which depends on Russia for supplies in addition to large volumes of thermal coal.

Russia provides one-third of EU gas demand and over 40% of its steam coal used for power generation.

NATURAL GAS


Russia remains the EU's single biggest external natural gas supplier and this is unlikely to change while Russian gas remains cheaper than LNG, its main competitor.

The EU imported some 162 Bcm of Russian gas in 2017, around 33% of total inland demand.

Russia's state-owned gas company Gazprom's sales to the EU rose 7% on the year to 164 Bcm -- including of non-Russian origin -- in 2017, while total EU demand grew 6%.

The EU has a massive LNG import capacity, but LNG is currently more expensive than Russian pipeline gas. In winter 2017, the JKM benchmark price for spot deliveries in Asia averaged $9.50/MMBtu, 33% more than the average day-ahead Dutch TTF price of $7.15/MMBtu.

The EU also has binding gas supply security rules, including obligations on downstream suppliers to ensure 30 days' supply to protected customers -- mainly households -- if the single largest gas supply infrastructure in their market is disrupted.

This includes Russia's main supply corridors to the EU.


RUSSIAN COAL


Russian thermal coal accounts for 43% of the total European Union import market, according to Eurostat data.

Exports of Russian thermal coal to the European Union totaled 35.2 million mt through October 2017, compared with 15 million mt from Colombia during the 10-month period, and 8.6 million mt from the US, according to Eurostat.

Total Russian coal exports have grown an average 6.9% over the last four years, totaling 184.6 million mt in 2017, up 12.7% from the prior year, according to Russian Ministry of Energy data.

Roughly 75% of those exports are thermal coal used for coal-fired power generation, according to Platts Analytics.


OIL LINK


Formerly the eastern Mediterranean's leading oil and natural gas producer, Syria itself used to produce over 380,000 b/d of oil and 300 MMcf/d of natural gas before the civil war that began in the spring of 2011.

Since then, Syria has seen its production fall to a fraction of pre-conflict levels and the country is no longer able to export oil.

Russia currently exports around 70% of its crude exports to European countries, particularly the Netherlands, Germany, Poland, and Belarus. Russian oil exports of over 7 million b/d also provide more than one-third of the total crude imported to European members of the OECD.

But the main concern over supplies arising from a confrontation in Syria would be the threat to key supply routes out of the Middle East, especially the Red Sea, which handles most of the region's crude heading into Europe.

Combined, the Suez Canal in Egypt and or Suez-Mediterranean pipeline, which connects the Red Sea and the Gulf of Suez with the Mediterranean Sea, transports some 5.5 million b/d of global oil supplies.

Saudi Arabia has the 746-mile Petroline, also known as the East-West Pipeline, which runs across Saudi Arabia from its Abqaiq complex to the Red Sea.

Russian activity in European natural gas markets in 2016; EU power sector: national power mixes in 2017

--Fabio Reale, fabio.reale@spglobal.com
--Staff, newsdesk@spglobal.com
--Edited by Jeremy Lovell, newsdesk@spglobal.com



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