European countries consumed a total of 18.7 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of natural gas in 2013, of which 5.7 tcf came from Russia. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) has recently released its finding that of the 5.7 tcf gas that flows to Europe from Russia, 3 tcf flowed through the Ukrainian pipeline networks.
Major natural gas pipelines flowing through Ukraine
There are primarily three pipeline systems that carry Russian gas to Europe via Ukraine. The first of these is the Bratstvo (Brotherhood) pipeline which is the largest pipeline to Europe. “It crosses from Ukraine to Slovakia and splits in two to supply northern and southern European countries,” reports the EIA.
The second major pipeline between Russia and Western Europe is the Soyuz (Union) pipeline. “The Soyuz pipeline links Russian pipelines to natural gas networks in Central Asia and supplies additional volumes to central and northern Europe,” says the EIA.
Trans-Balkan pipeline carries Russian gas through Ukraine to the Balkan countries and Turkey. According to Gazprom OAO (ADR) (OTCMKTS:OGZPY) (MCX:GAZP), “The first deliveries of Russian natural gas to Turkey from the Soviet Union began in June 1987 via Romania and Bulgaria by the specially constructed Trans-Balkan pipeline.”
Figure 1: Map of major Ukrainian gas pipelines
Natural gas flows in Russia
Russian gas has historically depended on pipelines through Ukraine for its exports. In the past, 80% of the Russian natural gas exports flowed through Ukraine. “This number has fallen to 50%-60% since the Nord Stream pipeline, a direct link between Russia and Germany under the Baltic Sea, came online in 2011,” states EIA.
Furthermore, there are seasonal variations in natural gas flows through Ukraine. “Natural gas flows through Ukraine vary by season, ranging from almost 12 billion cubic feet (Bcf) of natural gas per day in the winter to only 6 Bcf per day in the summer. An unusually mild winter in 2013 meant reduced natural gas flows through Ukraine and contributed to higher levels of natural gas storage in Europe (natural gas storage levels were 46% full as of March 13, compared to 23% full in the United States),” says the EIA.
Figure 2: Russian natural gas exports to Europe through Ukraine