RIGA - This year will show the true consumption of natural gas in Latvia, Uldis Bariss, Chairman of the Board of the natural gas transmission and storage operator Conexus Baltic Grid (Conexus), told LETA in an interview.
He explained that last year could have been the last year when natural gas consumption in Latvia decreased, and 2024 will show whether natural gas consumption will recover and to what extent.
"We hope that last year will have been the last year of decline. Last year, the decline was small on average throughout the year. Moreover, last year was still affected by high natural gas prices. So from that point of view, 2024 will be the real test year, when we will see if and to what extent natural gas consumption will recover," Bariss said, adding that the decline in natural gas consumption has been seen across the Baltic region.
Bariss pointed out that the Incukalns underground gas storage facility currently holds about 15.8 terawatt hours (TWh) of natural gas. Last year, which was the first heating season after the start of the war in Ukraine, a total of 13.1 TWh of gas was pumped into the facility.
"Last year was a very good year for us in that we pumped a record total of 21.7 TWh into storage. This is the highest in five years. So we can feel quite secure," Bariss added.
The Conexus CEO also stressed that this year there will be both gas and the necessary pressure to take gas out of storage. Two and a half years ago, compressors were adapted which can also be used during the withdrawal season if needed.
As for the damage to the Balticconnector gas pipeline between Estonia and Finland, Bariss said that Latvia was not directly affected from a security of supply point of view, but it was primarily a challenge for Finnish colleagues, who had to quickly re-organize all supplies to the LNG terminal in Inkoo. This has been accomplished, and gas supplies in Finland are running smoothly.
Bariss pointed out that it is difficult to say at the moment whether the Balticconnector case undermines confidence in the Incukalns underground gas storage facility as such, because even if there is a technical problem, it will still be possible to deliver the gas. "The lesson we can learn from this event is that we cannot rely on just one supplier and one source of energy. Then long-term security risks emerge," he added.
He also stressed that Latvia is in a very good position in this respect, as gas supplies are available from several sources. "The Finnish experience also shows how important it is to have several gas supply options," Bariss said.
As for the future role of natural gas, Bariss said that if gas is to be replaced in ten years' time, then the system must be built now.
"Of course we need to develop renewable energy generation on a large scale, but it will take some time to get to the point where we can generate hydrogen on a large scale and it will be economically viable," Bariss said.