The following major gas pipelines run through Belarus.
- Torzhok-Kondratki-Frankfurt/Oder (Yamal pipeline), 1420 mm (56-in)
- Torzhok-Minsk-Ivatsevichi, 3 x 1220 mm (48-in)
- Ivatsevichi-Kobrin-Dolina, 2 x 1220 mm (48-in)
- Kobrin-Brest-Warsaw, 1020 mm (40-in)
- Minsk-Vilnius, 1220 mm (48-in)
- Torzhok-Dolina, 1420 mm (56-in)
The Yamal pipeline supplies gas to Poland, Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium. If the flow via Belarus is cut, Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium can receive gas via Ukraine. There is enough gas stored in underground storage facilities of Ukraine and Germany. Combination of mild winter and long Russian holiday (from December 30 to January 8) means there is spare capacity in gas pipelines of Russia and Ukraine. The holiday period reduces daily gas consumption for power generation alone by about 50 million cubic meters.
In 2005 Poland imported 3.2 bcm of Russian gas via Belarus and 3.9 bcm via Ukraine. The flow through Drozdovichi can be increased only by 15%, which is not enough to substitute the loss if the flow via Belarus is turned off. Underground gas storage facilities of Poland have maximum withdrawal rate of about 7 million cubic meters per day. It is not enough to replace the flow from Belarus. On top of that, storage gas is needed to meet regular peak-load demand in winter period.
The Russian region of Kaliningrad depends on supplies of gas through Belarus. Lithuania also receives most of its gas via the Minsk-Vilnius pipeline.
Gazprom blocks access of Belarus and other states to Central Asian gas. Gas from Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan can be bought only through designated brokers - ZMB (Schweiz) AG and Rosukrenergo. Brokerage services are extremely expensive. For instance, from January 2007, ZMB will buy gas at the border of Turkmenistan at $100/mcm and resell it to Georgia at $235. Note that the official transit fee from Turkmen border to Georgia and Azerbaijan is about $30/mcm. Nevertheless, Gazprom expects Ukraine, Belarus and other European states to provide transit services for Russian gas.
Theoretically, Belarus can stop selling transit services to Gazprom and become a broker for all Russian gas that gets into its territory. Russia's non-ratification of the Energy Charter Treaty opens interesting opportunities for brokers of Russian gas in Belarus, Ukraine and other countries of Eastern Europe.
Environmental authorities of Belarus may use the approach of their Russian colleagues to the evaluation of environmental damage caused by pipeline projects. It would be easy to find sections of the Yamal-Europe pipeline that do not meet the environmental regulations of Belarus. For instance, ROW of the section shown in this satellite photo substantially exceeds the regulated maximum width of 45 meters.
In general, the formal introduction of gas export monopoly of Gazprom has reduced security of supplies to Europe. In a similar conflict in January 2004, when Gazprom stopped gas sales to Belarus, the flows were replaced by independent traders Itera and Trans-Nafta. Now Russian independents and Central Asian producers are unable to export gas out of Russia.
Mikhail Korchemkin, December 30, 2006
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