Energy Security is a hot topic in recent times. Countries are adopting clean energy and increasing their share of renewable energy in their energy mix. This has created a genesis and thereby a paradigm shift, in the way we harness energy. This shift is slowly developing and will require some years. Until then, Natural Gas is the most economically and environmentally friendly fuel.
Europe due to its extreme winter stocks up on natural gas. This stock in most countries like France, Austria, etc. has seen a 10% increase in stock capacity each month. By November, the governments of these nations aim to stock up about 80% of the total storage capacity.
But, where do these countries store their Natural Gas supplies?
Europe and Natural Gas Demand
The European Union as of 2022, comprises 27 nations:
Today, gas is produced in mostly all the EU nations. But the demand for Natural Gas in these countries is far more than their own supply. Hence, the countries import Natural Gas in order to fill the void of additional demand.
For instance, France’s annual Natural Gas production in 2017 was 742 MMcf (Million metric cubic feet), whereas its consumption for a similar year topped 1,342,959 MMcf.
Over the decades, the natural gas reserves of France have declined significantly.
This transcends the import of Natural Gas from neighboring countries.
And the only country that can satiate the energy-hungry EU nations is none other than Russia.
Conflict arises due to the ongoing geopolitical tensions among the western countries and the natural gas supply cut from Russia.
Although the USA is the largest producer of Natural gas, it is not economically viable for all EU to get its gas supply from the USA. Therefore, countries like Germany have built the (now closed) NordStream-1 pipeline and directly get its gas from Russia.
As winter is coming, European Nations are stocking up on gas supplies.
Where does the EU store the imported gas?
In Austria, the government only owns a 20TWH (tera-watt hour) capacity of storage while the rest is operated and maintained by the private sector. The major private sector players in this industry are, OMV GROUP and RAG Austria AG.Together these companies control most of the share of the Austrian Gas storage facilities.
The imported Natural Gas is stored in underground facilities, mostly the depleted reservoirs. These Natural Gas reservoirs are at a depth of 500-2300m. These reservoirs are closed and hence there is no case of gas being leaked underground. Earlier, Natural Gas was produced from these reservoirs.
According to the Federal Ministry of the Republic of Austria, facilities that store imported Natural Gas from Austria are in Haidach, Haidach 5, Aigelsbrunn, 7-Fields, Puchkirchen, Haag, Tallesbrunn, and Schönkirchen.
There are two types of storage capacities :
- Working gas: This is the volume of gas that can be stored and retrieved again and again throughout the year.
- Cushion gas: This is the amount of Natural Gas additionally required to maintain the pressure of Natural Gas such that the gas can be retrieved at a given flow rate.
Belgium has a well-developed infrastructure for Natural Gas. This includes transmission pipelines, LNG terminals, storage facilities, etc.
Belgium mainly imports its gas from the Netherlands and Norway. There are two types of transmission networks:
- L-gas (low calorific gas), supplied by Netherlands and Belgium plans to convert the complete L-gas network into H-gas Network as an attempt to modernize the network.
- H-gas (high calorific gas) is mostly imported from neighboring nations via LNG terminals.
Fluxys Belgium is a Natural Gas distribution company headquartered in Brussels, Belgium. It has one underground storage facility used for seasonal gas storage and is highly flexible as it can cater to Belgium’s demand for natural gas for 13 days. Zeebrugge LNG Terminal is used for the short-term storage of gas.
Mostly, the gas comes via pipelines from Netherlands, France, and neighboring nations so, therefore, the storage facilities required are less. The Dutch L-gas fields are used by Belgium as swing suppliers to provide flexibility in L-gas supply.
The total gas reserves of Bulgaria stood at 200,000 MMcf as of 2015. Gas produced in 2015 was 3685 MMcf whereas the amount of Gas consumed is 111,291 MMcf. In Bulgaria, gas is mainly imported for Industrial purposes. For the commercial and residential sectors, consumption is particularly low. In 2021, the gas consumption exceeded 3.3 bcm (billion cubic meters). Bulgaria gas company, Bulgargaz is a key player in sourcing gas in Bulgaria.
Greece and Bulgaria have developed an interconnector pipeline for their energy security in the region. Once completed the Azeri gas (gas from the Azerbaijan field) will be transferred via the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline, and the supply of gas from the Revithoussa terminal can also begin.
Another terminal, Alexandroupolis Independent Natural Gas System is a floating LNG terminal being developed off the coast of Greece. To diversify the gas sources, Bulgargaz has signed a 10-year deal to import 500 mcm(million cubic meters) of gas each year.
Bulgarian Energy Holding EAD is a state-owned energy holding company in Bulgaria. Bulgartransgas and Bulgargaz are their subsidiaries.
Chiren is a village where Bulgaria’s chiren underground natural gas storage (ugs) facility is located. Bulgartransgaz operates this storage facility. Bulgaria’s underground facility has a relatively limited capacity of 0.6 billion m³.
It has 37 gas fields in the Pannonian Basin and shares 37% of the exploitation areas with Italy in the Adriatic. Croatia’s total natural gas consumption is around 2.9 billion cubic meters per year. Natural gas produced from domestic extraction covers around 35-40 percent of this consumption while the rest is imported, mainly from Russia.
Currently, it has only one underground storage facility. This facility is the Okoli underground gas storage facility in central Croatia.
The majority of Natural Gas is imported from Germany and Slovakia.There are eight underground storage facilities mostly near the Czech Slovak border with a combined maximum storage capacity of 3.3 bcm.
The three storage operators operate these facilities:
- RWE Gas Storage- It operates six storage facilities. These facilities are in Štramberk, Tvrdonice, Háje, Dolní Dunajovice, and Lobodice.
- MND Gas Storage– It operates one storage facility.
- Moravia Gas Storage– It operates one facility. Dambořice storage is managed by Moravia Gas Storage.
In addition, SPP Storage operates a facility in Southern Moravia with a storage capacity of 0.6 bcm, which is currently used exclusively for supplying the Slovak Republic but is planned to connect to the Czech gas network in 2022.
Denmark has two gas storage facilities that are operated and maintained by the Danish state. The state owns a company namely GAS STORAGE DENMARK A/S. This company bought the two storage facilities from DONG ENERGY. The underground gas storage facilities are:
- The aquifer storage facility at Stenlille in the central part of Zealand
- The salt cavern facility at Lille Torup in Northern Jutland
There are a number of commercial natural gas storage facilities located in France. There is no public or strategic natural gas storage in the country and underground natural gas storage is the only facility to rely on. Storage facilities are used to manage pipeline flows and seasonal demand swings, as well as to capture price arbitrage opportunities.
The total amount of gas storage capacity in France is 12.2 billion cubic metres (bcm) (29% of yearly consumption). There are two underground gas storage operators:
- Storengy operates 13 sites in France. These are trapped underground storage facilities that include ten aquifer types and three salt cavern types. Together it stores about 9.3 bcm (76% of the country’s capacity).
- Teréga, is France TSO [transmission system operators], which operates the two oldest gas storage sites in aquifers in the south-west part of the country (in Izaute and Lussagnet, built-in 1957), representing a total volume of 2.9 bcm (24% of total capacity).
Gas production in Germany is pretty low. About one-tenth of the nation’s demand is fulfilled via its own production.
Therefore, in such a country it becomes imperative to have storage facilities installed.
German storage facilities have a combined capacity of about 23.3 bcm of natural gas. This is a fifth of the gas actually consumed annually.
There are around 40 storage locations. Storengy Deutschland GmbH is one of the largest natural gas storage companies in Germany. It has about 6 sites in Germany. Along with it OMV Gas Storage also has a facility in a northern area known as Etzel. Uniper too is a key player which operates and maintains storage sites.
With declining domestic production of Natural Gas, Hungary is an importer of Gas. Much of it is sourced from Russia. Underground Gas Storage(UGS) facilities supply gas on a typically cold winter day.
It has the fourth-largest gas-storing capacity in the EU.
Hungarian Gas Storage Ltd. is the largest operating company in Hungary. It stores about 4.43 bcm of gas in its four underground storage facilities.
Hungarian Hydrocarbon Stockpiling Association [HUSA] maintains strategic gas reserves at an Underground Storage Facility in Szőreg, in southern Hungary. This facility is owned by HEXUM Natural Gas.
Snam is the largest operator of Natural Gas storage facilities in Italy. Its subsidiary Stogit manages nine sites. These sites are in Brugherio, Bordolano, Cortemaggiore, Fiume Treste, Minerbio, Ripalta, Sabbioncello, Sergnano and Settala. Edison Group subsidiary Edison Stoccaggio Spa manages Collalto, San Potito e Cotignola, and Cellino with a capacity of 600, 400, and 120 mcm.
Baltic countries which are formed of Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania rely on a single UGS facility. This is Inčukalns underground gas storage (Inčukalns UGS), owned and operated by Latvian gas transmission system operator JSC “Conexus Baltic Grid”.
It has a maximum capacity of 4.47 bcm. During summers, the gas consumption is far less so the UGS is filled at that time. During the winters, Natural gas is supplied to all the Baltic countries. There can be a total of 11 gas storage facilities due to the geological structures. The gas is stored in these locations at a depth of around 700-800m.
Only imported Natural Gas in the form of LNG (liquefied natural gas) has been sourced in Malta. There is no production of Oil and Gas in Malta.
Malta relies heavily on Natural gas with gas being 70% of its energy mix, 24% imported electricity through the Malta-Sicily interconnector, and 6% renewable energy.
Gasco Energy Limited is vested with the responsibility for the importation, storage, and bottling of Liquified Petroleum Gas in Malta. The company is a joint venture between Multigas Limited and Liquigas SpA of Italy.
LNG gas which is imported is regasified to Natural Gas by a floating liquefied natural gas (FLNG) regasification terminal in South Eastern Region, Malta. This facility is called Delimara FSRU.
Reserves of about 28 trillion cubic feet exist in the Netherlands as of 2017. Energy Stock is the only gas storage company in the Netherlands that stores gas in caverns. It stores gas in Zuidwending, in the northern province of Groningen.
TAQA is a company in the Netherlands that operates Gas Storage Bergermeer(GSB). The facility provides 46 TWh of seasonal storage capacity.
Apart from this TAQA also holds a stake in Peak Gas Installation (PGI). This is an underground natural gas reservoir used to store and deliver natural gas to meet peak demand from the Dutch national grid (GTS).
PGI uses the Alkmaar gas reservoir located near the city of Alkmaar which is situated approximately 2,200 metres underground.
The underground gas storage facilities in POLAND are:
KPMG Mogilno – is situated at Kujawsko-Pomorskie Voivodeship, County of Mogilno, in the Communes of Mogilno and Rogowo.
PMG Husów – The facility is located in Podkarpackie Voivodeship, County of Łańcut, Communes of Łańcut and Markowa.
PMG Wierzchowice – This is a developed site in Dolnośląskie Voivodeship, County of Milicz, Communes of Milicz, and Krośnice where Nitrogen rich Natural Gas was once produced. It is the largest underground storage facility for natural gas in Poland.
PMG Strachocina – The site is located in Podkarpackie Voivodeship, County of Sanok, Communes of Sanok, and Brzozów.
PMG Brzeźnica – This gas storage facility is in Podkarpackie Voivodeship, County of Dębica, Commune of Dębica.
PMG Swarzów – The location is in Małopolskie Voivodeship, County of Dąbrowa Tarnowska, Communes of Dąbrowa Tarnowska and Olesno. It is one of the oldest natural gas storage facilities in Poland.
KPMG Kosakowo – The storage facility is situated in the vicinity of the urban agglomeration of Gdańsk, Gdynia, and Sopot.
There are two gas storage facilities in Portugal.
The Carriço UGS facility and LNG storage at the Sines terminal. A maximum storage capacity of around 600 mcm, of which 242 mcm for LNG storage capacity and 360 mcm of underground storage is provided by these facilities.
As per the 2017 data, Romania holds about 3.73 trillion cubic feet(tcf) of natural gas reserves. It is a major gas producer in Europe with around 12 bcm of gas produced in 2021. With the gas reserves being used up, Romania might require importing Russian Gas.
The major companies involved in the storage business are Romgaz, and Amgaz Depomures.
Romgaz operates various gas storage facilities, some of which are located near the Ghercesti Gas Field. It operates the Oltenia gas storage facility. Depogaz, a subsidiary of Romgaz, is the main storage operator in Romania. It operates 90.5% of the total storage of Natural Gas. Depogaz maintains five Underground Storage Facilities.
These are: Bilciurești, Urziceni, Bălăceanca, Sărmășel, Ghercești.
Nafta and Pozagas are companies that have storage facilities in Slovakia. Nafta operates underground natural gas storage facilities in the vicinity of the village of Láb. Along with this, there is another facility Gajary-Báden developed in 2008.
Pozagas is the next major player which operates an underground gas storage facility known as Láb 4, which has a capacity of 0.62 billion cubic meters.
Engas Group operates three UGS in Spain. These are located in Serrablo (Huesca), Gaviota (Bizkaia), and Yela (Guadalajara).
The one-of-a-kind submarine storage project called Castor Natural Gas Submarine Storage project is located 22 kilometers off the coast of Vinaròs (Castellón), in Spanish territorial waters in the Mediterranean. It was designed to complement the Spanish natural gas energy requirements in the event of shortages or an interruption in imports.
Swedegas owns and operates a gas storage facility in the southwest part of Sweden.
This storage facility has a capacity of 10 million normal cubic meters (Nm3) of gas and can handle pressure in excess of 200 bar.
Not every country in Europe has a Natural Gas storage facility. These countries rely mostly on uninterrupted supplies via transmission pipelines. Some of these countries are:
Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Ireland, Lithuania, Luxembourg, and Slovenia.
The storage of NaturalGas in these countries becomes challenging since Europe is in an uncertain situation of what’s next to come with the ongoing conflict between Europe and Russia.
Gas prices are less affected by geopolitical tensions. This is due to the fact that Oil is still the most sought-after fossil fuel, followed by coal and then Natural Gas.
In countries where the demand is low and climatic conditions do not experience extreme winter the usage of Natural Gas is limited. Nevertheless, for Europe, Natural Gas is the most important fuel. Together, the European Union agreed upon filling 80% of the Natural Gas storage facilities by November 1.
This energy security issue will continue to loom until the Union undergoes a complete transition to alternative energy sources. With Ukraine-Russia war, and sanctions on Russia it would be interesting see the European countries would the resources. Apparently, there will be new player in this geo-politics of energy.
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