Russia's probably testing Kaliningrad's ability to secure gas supplies – experts - BNS THEME

  • 2021-02-09
  • BNS/TBT Staff

VILNIUS – As Russian gas giant Gazpom has recently temporarily suspended gas transit to the Russian region of Kaliningrad via Lithuania, citing sufficient gas stocks in a local storage facility, some experts and politicians in Lithuania say this way Russia is testing its enclave's ability to secure gas supplies independently.

Nevertheless, representatives of the ruling block say the decision to suspend transit is geopolitical, adding that it’s a sign for Lithuania that it cannot delay the implementation of strategic energy projects, including the power network synchronization and the GIPL gas interconnection with Poland.

Representing the ruling Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats, Paulius Saudargas, a member of the parliamentary Commission on Energy and Sustainable Development, believes Russia is now using various ways to test systems in the Kaliningrad region that needs gas for the power production.

"They are also probably sending us a signal as they want Kaliningrad, in case of necessity, to be independent from transit via Lithuania. (…) They supply gas to Lithuania, that's fine, so that in no way affects the Lithuanian system as we receive 30 percent of gas from Russia, and 70 percent from LNG (The Klaipeda-based LNG terminal – BNS)," Saudargas told BNS.

Rytas Staselis, an expert from the National Lithuanian Energy Association (NLEA), leans towards agreeing with the position that similar tests are taking place in Kaliningrad, but probably not involving the whole system.

"I believe it looks very similar to the first option that they are testing stocks in their storage facilities. Of course, not the whole system as their FSRU (the LNG ship – BNS) is now near the African coasts and, probably, cannot arrive quickly from Africa for them to try LNG again. So, there are no other major indications of any more serious matters," Staselis told BNS.

Based on vessel-tracking websites, and, Russia's Marshal Vasilevskiy FSRU Terminal is not off South Africa's western coats, near Cape Town.

Vidmanas Jankauskas, an energy expert, says it's quite possible that Russia wants to ensure the preparedness of Kaliningrad's energy system.

"You know the way they imagine: that if Lithuania decides to prevent them (…), since there (in Kaliningrad – BNS) they have an alternative supply system, that ship, so they are probably simply interested to test the way it works," Jankauskas told BNS.

Representing the ruling HU-LCD, Zygimantas Pavilionis, chairman of the parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs, says technical problems are also possible in Kaliningrad, adding, however, that it wouldn’t be surprising if the transit suspension is a geopolitical issue.

"As you know, Russia likes it very much to use energy as a weapon to resolve geopolitical problems. I'm seeing a growing number of media reports, probably encouraged by someone, also attacking our Minister Kreivys (Lithuanian Energy Minister Dainius Kreivys – BNS) over the non-purchase of power from Astravyets," Pavilionis told BNS.

He did not rule out that the gas transit situation was related to the ongoing installation by Russia of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline on the Baltic Sea's seabed, causing tensions in Europe.

Staselis leans towards thinking that the Astravyets NPP and Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline issues is rather an accompanying natural background for the situation around gas transit to Kaliningrad, all the more so that there's a contract, valid until 2025, with Gazprom and gas is transported to Kaliningrad based on the "ship or pay" formula.

Earlier on Tuesday, Lithuania's natural gas transmission system operator Amber Grid reported that 

gas transit to Russia's Kaliningrad region via Belarus and Lithuania had been temporarily suspended at Gazprom's request, with the Russian company stating that gas amounts in its underground storage facilities are now sufficient for the region.