Friday, November 30, 2012

Lithuania Seeks Alternative Natural Gas Sources to Reduce its Energy Dependence on Russia

Business Recorder: Lithuania Sues Russian Gas Giant Gazprom
FT: CEE Nuclear Power: Deeper in Doubt
NYT: Chevron, Intent on European Shale Gas, Buys Lithuanian Stake
Reuters: Chevron to Prospect for Shale Gas in Lithuania
Reuters: Lithuania Gets 16 Proposals to Supply LNG
Reuters: Lithuania Terminal Calls LNG Supply Tender
SF Chronicle: Lithuanians Deal Blow to Austerity, Nuclear Plans
WSJ: Chevron Enters Lithuanian Oil and Gas Exploration 

To reduce its energy dependence on Russia, Lithuania is encouraging private companies to explore for shale gas (a type of natural gas) and actively seeking new liquefied natural gas (LNG) suppliers. Lithuania imports over 60% of its total electricity needs, more than any other European Union (EU) country. In 2009, Lithuania shut down its only atomic power plant, which was built when the country was part of the Soviet Union, due to safety concerns. To make up for this loss of energy, Lithuania began importing more natural gas from Gazprom, a Russian gas company. These imports totaled 3.4 billion cubic meters (bcm) in 2011, or 100% of Lithuania’s natural gas consumption. Countries completely dependent on Gazprom for natural gas have experienced problems in the past. For example, in the winter of 2009, the Ukrainian government entered into a pricing dispute with Gazprom. As a result, Gazprom cut off the country’s gas supply for three weeks leaving hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians without heat. This is why the Lithuanian government recently made energy independence a priority for the country.
According to Lithuania’s Prime Minister, Andrius Kubilius, Lithuania has 120 bcm of underground shale gas reserves that could be recovered through specialized extraction methods. In order to access the reserves and reduce its dependence on Gazprom, the Lithuanian government has been auctioning off shale gas exploration licenses to private companies. In May 2012, Minijos Nafta, a Lithuanian oil exploration company, began drilling wells in its license area around Gargzdai. In October 2012, Chevron, the second largest U.S. oil company, announced it was purchasing a 50% stake in LL Investicijos, a privately owned Lithuanian oil and gas exploration company. Investicijos holds a license to prospect for gas on a 2,400 square kilometer field near the town of Rietavas. According to Derek Magness, Chevron’s Director General of onshore European operations, the company believes Lithuania’s government will welcome Chevron’s involvement due to its desire to break free from Gazprom. Prime Minister Kubilius described Chevron’s investment as a “good sign,” and the Ministry of the Environment announced plans to auction off two more licenses to shale gas areas in 2012.
The Lithuanian government has also attempted to find new suppliers of LNG to reduce its dependence on Russia. Klaipedos Nafta, a state-owned operator of oil terminals (facilities for storing natural gas), is opening a new LNG storage unit in 2014 that it expects will distribute up to 4 bcm of natural gas to Lithuania each year. In October 2012, Klaipedos Nafta received bids from 16 companies offering to supply LNG to the new storage facility. Rokas Masiulis, Klaipedos Nafta’s Chief Executive, said the number of bids received was “unexpectedly high” and would help put an end to Lithuania’s dependence on a single gas supply source. The bids came from companies all over the world, including the U.S., Qatar, and Norway. Klaipedos Nafta hopes to sign one of these non-Russian companies to a ten year supply contract for 0.75 bcm of natural gas per year. In addition, Klaipedos Nafta entered negotiations with Cheniere Energy, an energy company based in the U.S., to purchase LNG in the spot markets (purchase of gas for immediate delivery at current market prices) beginning in late 2015.
The Lithuanian government’s efforts to reduce dependence on Russian natural gas are coming at a critical time for the country. In October 2012, Lithuania filed an international lawsuit against Gazprom seeking approximately $1.9 billion in damages. Lithuania alleged that Gazprom abused its market clout to increase Lithuanian gas prices almost 500% from $84 per cubic meter of gas in 2004 to $497 in 2012. Lithuania’s Prime Minister hopes Gazprom will ultimately agree to a settlement involving more favorable gas prices, but warned the lawsuit could drag on for several years if no settlement is reached. Although Gazprom angrily contested the lawsuit’s allegations, the Lithuanian government’s continued efforts at energy independence may provide a powerful economic incentive for the company to reach a settlement.


Dennis The Menace said...

Interesting blog lots of information.

lawconomics said...

Since Lithuania (and the rest of the Baltic States) is slowly moving towards an integration to the Nordpool market area, dependency on Russian gas will decline in the mid term future.

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