Gazprom, Russia's state gas provider, has been told to speed up exploration activities in the far east of the Federation.

Chief executive Alexey Miller told a high-level meeting that the Eastern Gas Programme, covering Siberia, needed to pick up speed.

The Sakhalin, Yakutia and Irkutsk gas production centers were all identified as locations for renewed effort.

In a statement on the Gazprom website, it was noted that in those regions the company had sufficient reserves to secure long-term gas supplies "for both Russian and foreign consumers".

The commercial reserves of the Eastern Gas Programme (EGP) at estimated at 5.2 trillion cubic meters (tcm).

In 2007 the Russian government approved the state-run Development Program for an integrated gas production, transportation and supply system in Eastern Siberia and the Far East, the EGP. China and other Asian-Pacific countries were seen as potential markets. Just this week Beijing and Gazprom signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on gas supplies via the eastern route.



Russian gas giant OAO Gazprom said it would invest 509.6 billion Russian rubles ($16.89 billion) expanding its pipelines to take gas to southeastern Europe via the South Stream link, piling further costs onto a project aimed at bypassing traditional transit countries Ukraine and Belarus.

The investment in Russia's domestic pipeline network, revealed Tuesday in a document posted on Gazprom's website, will bring the total cost of the South Stream project—aimed at shipping 63 billion cubic meters of gas under the Black Sea by 2018—to $38.4 billion. The offshore and European sections of the pipeline are forecast to cost €16 billion ($21.53 billion).

Russia is building the South Stream pipeline to diversify supply routes to the European Union after disputes with Ukraine led to cutoffs in 2006 and 2009. Russian gas covers about a quarter of Europe's needs.

Analysts have long criticized Gazprom for perceived overspending on pipeline projects. Some analysts question the need for South Stream, given flagging demand for Russian gas in its most lucrative market in Europe.

"It looks expensive and unprofitable, as in the future Gazprom will have to pay for gas transit under 'supply or pay' terms, and it may not fully supply the pipeline," said Raiffeisen Bank analyst Andrey Polishchuk. "It's a risky project. The only reasons to build it are political, to decrease the risks related to transit through Ukraine."

Gazprom and its South Stream partners Électricité de France SA, BASF-Wintershall and Italy's ENI SpA launched construction of the offshore section of the pipeline in December.



Russia's Gazprom said construction would begin this week on the underwater section of its South Stream pipeline, which will carry natural gas beneath the Black Sea and into the European Union.

But is this really the case?

Gazprom CEO Aleksei Miller announced last month that the final investment decision for the project had been reached. Miller attended a groundbreaking ceremony near the town of Anapa on Russia's Black Sea coast on December 7.

However, as Johnatan Stern, head of the Natural Gas Research Program at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies notes, Gazprom hasn't yet ordered pipe or organized the lay barge for the pipeline and "cannot start laying the offshore section until 2014 [at the] earliest."

Moreover, EU officials say a final route has yet to be submitted to Brussels and likely won't have final approval for at least another year.

RFE/RL has also learned that EU Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger declined an invitation to attend the groundbreaking, citing previous commitments.

Marlena Holzner, the spokeswoman for the EU energy commissioner, says this means that a final investment decision on South Stream -- a phase after all designs and studies have been completed and official approvals are in hand -- isn't even in sight.

"We have no concrete information that, indeed, the final investment decision on South Stream has been taken already because normally, if you use this term in a general sense, you would have different things established before you can say it's a final investment decision," Holzner says. "And one is that you have the route.

"To the European Commission, it has never been communicated that there is a final route. That means where South Stream starts, where it ends, and which countries the exact route goes through. That has not been done," she continues. "There is no environmental impact assessment for the whole route. As far as we can see it, we don't regard this as a final investment decision."

The proposed South Stream pipeline route, according to Gazprom
Gazprom says South Stream will pass through Turkish waters to Bulgaria, then continue on through Serbia, Hungary, Slovenia, and Austria to tie in with the distribution network of the multinational Eni in northern Italy.

Officials in Brussels say they see South Stream's current status as moving from the "conceptual design and feasibility" stage to the "front-end engineering and design" phase.

In the latter phase, EU legislation requires numerous tasks that need approval from regulators in each country along the route and from the European Commission itself.

Russia says it has concluded intergovernmental agreements needed with each EU country involved, but the European Commission hasn't yet seen them all.

The deadline for EU states to submit those documents to Brussels is February 16, 2013. The commission then has nine months to assess the agreements and raise its doubts and concerns.

A detailed plan for the entire route must be submitted to Brussels, which also must approve environmental and social impact studies by national regulators in each EU country.

A "transboundary assessment" is also required, with input from EU states adjacent to the route. All studies require consultations with the public and authorities in each country and could take more than a year to complete.

Moreover, the offshore section of the pipeline entering Bulgaria must undergo an EU environmental-impact study to ensure it complies with environmental directives.

Russian-European Chamber of Commerce President Sergei Shuklin confirmed that the December 7 ceremony at Anapa will mostly be a ribbon-cutting affair without underwater construction activity.

"Yes, yeah, I agree with that. But it starts," Shuklin said. "Actually, by this action, Russia showed they are serious about this project. They are just going to make it happen. I'm pretty sure.... So they will have the first communications with the European Commission, with the governments of the countries participating in this project. So everything will be concluded [according to EU legislation], especially [since] Russia just became a member of the World Trade Organization."

So why did Gazprom rush to make its announcement?

Shuklin suggested it could be related to a probe launched in September by the European Commission into allegations that Gazprom engaged in anticompetitive practices in Central and Eastern Europe.

"Russia was actually surprised with the action related to Gazprom," he said. "And so probably, one of the reasons was, 'Yeah, let's just do it our way. We know people from the countries where we will build the pipe, and at this point, deal less with the European Union government.'"

Robert Cutler, a research fellow at Carleton University's Institute of European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies in Canada, maintains that Gazprom's push to announce the start of construction work on South Stream could also be related to domestic politics.

"On live Russian television, [President] Vladimir Putin gave [Prime Minister] Dmitry Medvedev a direct order: Construction of the pipeline should begin by the end of 2012," Cutler said. "There's a certain amount of prestige domestically invested now in producing some sort of result, even though physical construction of the pipeline probably was not in the cards then and certainly is not now.

"If Putin gives this order and Medvedev says, 'We'll do it,' but it doesn't end up happening, it raises questions domestically about their authority within the factions in the Kremlin and about Gazprom's credibility overall internationally."

According to Cutler, another reason is to give the appearance that South Stream is progressing faster than the Nabucco pipeline, a rival U.S.-backed project aimed at reducing Europe's dependence on Russian gas by linking the Caspian region and the Middle East to EU markets. 


KLITSCHKO KALADZE AND THE ENERGY POLICY.(Klitschko, Kaladze e la politica energetica)

Klitschko. Più che un cognome, un marchio.

Vitali e Wladimir. 4 metri e un paio di quintali in due. Entrambi attualmente campioni del mondo dei pesi massimi. Una vita in giro per l’ex impero sovietico la loro, seguendo il padre aviatore dal Kirghizistan, dov’è nato Vitali, al Kazakistan, dov’è nato Wladimir, fino all’Ucraina, dove nell’86 il signor Klitschko guidò le operazioni di bonifica intorno alla centrale di Cernobyl.

Un romanzo perfetto. Politicamente molto spendibile. In più Vitali e Wladimir di acume tattico e strategico, sarà merito della boxe, ne hanno sempre avuto da vendere. Così un bel giorno, tra un incontro di pugilato, una partita a scacchi con il campione russo Kramnik e un dottorato di ricerca, nel più anziano dei due fratelloni (sottolineo, all’epoca 34 anni) sbocciò la passione per la politica. Era il 2005 e Vitali decise di candidarsi a sindaco di Kiev. Arrivò secondo, ma fu un’occasione per testare la buona fiducia di cui godeva.

Il suo programma, rimasto invariato sino ad oggi, era un miscuglio anche abbastanza contraddittorio di centrismo e populismo. Qualcosa di riassumibile in un classico “legge e ordine” ma con un’attenzione particolare ai diritti e alla pressione fiscale, da ridurre al più presto. Il tutto in un’ottica internazionale più interessata a Bruxelles e alla Nato che non a Mosca. Nel 2008, in occasione di una nuova campagna elettorale, il buon Vitali arrivò a scomodare addirittura Rudy Giuliani, il sindaco dell’11 settembre. Boxe, ring, legge, ordine, lotta al terrorismo e alla criminalità, sudore e canotte bianche: più che una piattaforma elettorale, una locandina di Die Hard.

Va da sé che con idee simili Vitali Klitschko abbia poco da spartire con l’attuale presidente ucraino Janukovic. E con una Yulia Timoshenko ancora in carcere per abuso d’ufficio, il “dottor Pugno di Ferro” (così è simpaticamente chiamato Klitschko) ha ben visto uno spazio di manovra per tentare di rottamare un sistema che, dopo soli due anni, per tanti ucraini puzza già di stantìo.

Per tanti, ma non per tutti. Le elezioni parlamentari, una vera e propria verifica di medio termine per Janukovic, hanno indicato una sostanziale tenuta del suo Partito delle Regioni, che si conferma la prima formazione del paese. Subito dietro il partito orfano della Timoshenko, alla quale la Corte Suprema aveva impedito di candidarsi. Quarto classificato il nostro Klitschko con il suo partito Udar (traducibile con “Colpo”, un po’ monotematico il ragazzo). Udar andrà così a ingrossare, insieme a nazionalisti, timoshenkisti e comunisti, le fila dell’opposizione.

Disastro totale dell’altro sportivo aspirante rottamatore Andriy Shevchenko. Sognava di imitare il suo vecchio allenatore Oleh Blokhin, eletto per due mandati consecutivi al parlamento di Kiev, e invece niet. Avanti Ucraina!, il partito che lo candidava, non ha superato la soglia di sbarramento. In più i forum ucraini hanno riservato al povero Andriy epiteti che vanno da “traditore” a “venduto”. Un successone. Come ci conferma la vicenda Klitschko, la politica da quelle parti è una cosa da duri. Riprendendo un tweet di Enrico Bertolino: non basta un pallone d’oro nel passato, servono due palle nel presente.

Calciatori prestati, o meglio regalati, alla politica. Sportivi con la rottamazione nel sangue. Già, perché quando sei abituato a muoverti all’interno di regole e a rispettarle vorresti che lo stesso accadesse per chi è alla guida del tuo paese. Piccolo corollario: gli scandali nel calcio in Italia non sono casuali. Sono solo l’ennesimo sintomo di ciò che ormai è evidente a tutti. Tranne che ai politici.

Detto questo, che poi il politico-sportivo non abbia spesso alcuna competenza in senso stretto è un fatto. Trascurabile, secondo il neo-premier georgiano Ivanishvili, che ha affidato all’ex milanista Kaladze il posto di vicepremier con delega all’energia, un qualcosa che in un paese come la Georgia significa praticamente il controllo assoluto. Cercare su google alla voce “oleodotto Baku-Tibilisi-Ceyhan”.
Stupito, emozionato, incredulo, Kakha Kaladze ammette in sostanza di non capirci un’acca né di energia né di oleodotti e gasdotti. Per cui davanti alle incalzanti domande tecniche si rifugia in un generico e forse un po’ torbido “ho tanti contatti all’estero che torneranno utili”. Ok, non vogliamo saperne di più.

Insomma, la rottamazione di un sistema può avvenire anche attraverso l’immagine, attraverso un volto noto e accattivante. Ormai lo abbiamo capito pure noi. Esistono le menti, esistono gli spin doctor. Ormai conosciamo i Casaleggio e i Gori. Kaladze e Schevchenko come George Weah, candidato presidente in Liberia. Kaladze e Schevchenko come Cafu, oggi sottosegretario allo sport in Brasile. Ma a Milanello, ogni tanto, ci si allenava?


THERE MUST BE GAS. (Ci deve essere gas)

Poland’s hopes of hitting a shale gas bonanza have suffered a blow as ExxonMobil ended exploration for the unconventional fuel after tests failed to find gas in commercial quantities.

The US oil major said there had been “no demonstrated sustained commercial hydrocarbon flow rates” in two test wells in eastern Poland and added that it had “completed its exploration operations in Poland”.

ExxonMobil has six concessions in Poland and it remains unclear what plans the company has for them.

The decision by ExxonMobil is the latest in a series of disappointments over Poland’s possible gas reserves.

Energy companies and the government were enticed by an estimate last year from the US Energy Information Administration, which said Poland might hold 5.3tn cubic metres of shale gas – the largest reserves in Europe.

However, a newer estimate by Poland’s government geological institute cut about 90 per cent off that, suggesting reserves of 346-768bn cubic metres.

Although the lower number is unlikely to turn Poland into a gas exporter, it would make it much less dependent on gas imports from Russia, which currently supplies about two-thirds of the 14bn cubic metres of gas the country consumes annually.

Waldemar Pawlak, Poland’s economy minister, suggested that ExxonMobil became less interested in its Polish operations after agreeing last week to develop tight oil reserves in Siberia together with Rosneft, the Russian state oil group.

“With such prospects, shale gas in Poland did not have as much meaning for [ExxonMobil],” said Mr Pawlak.

In 2009, ExxonMobil abandoned shale gas exploration in Hungary after a disappointing result from a test well.

The Polish government has handed out 109 shale gas exploration concessions around the country, and the other companies still looking for the fuel – a process that involves pumping fluids at high pressure deep underground to fracture rock, releasing trapped oil and gas – are still optimistic about Poland’s possible deposits.

Companies active in Poland include Chevron, ConocoPhilips and Poland’s PGNiG, the former gas monopoly, as well as a host of smaller groups specialised in shale gas exploration.

“I’m a bit perplexed as to why anyone would drill just two wells and then leave,” said John Buggenhagen, exploration director for Aim-quoted San Leon Energy, which has concessions near the Baltic coast, as well as in the west and south of the country.

“We believe it will take dozens of wells to explore just a small area. San Leon believes Poland has huge potential.”

One of the earliest tests came from 3Legs Resources, the UK-based independent that was the first operator to drill and test two shale wells near the Baltic coast where it found “encouraging” quantities of gas, although the flow rates were less than expected.

Mikolaj Budzanowski, the treasury minister, estimates that the first commercial shale gas extraction should begin in 2014-2015, with about 0.5 to 1bn cubic metres coming to market initially, with production eventually ramping up to 5bn-10bn cubic metres a year.

Poland has been one of the most enthusiastic backers of shale gas in the European Union, while other countries such as France, Romania and Bulgaria have instituted moratoriums on shale exploration for environmental reasons.