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Bit Tooth Energy: Tech Talk – Natural Gas, China and Russia in the post-Crimea time.

Bit Tooth Energy: Tech Talk – Natural Gas, China and Russia in the post-Crimea time..

TUESDAY, MARCH 25, 2014

The recent takeover of Crimea by Russia has given China a strengthened hand as it continues to negotiate with Gazprom over the supplies of natural gas for the next few years.

It was not that long ago that Gazprom was riding high around the world, as it supplied large quantities of its own and Turkmen gas to Europe, and was negotiating to sell more into China and Asia in general. Then Turkmenistan and China arranged their own deal, and with the construction of a direct pipeline between the two countries, suddenly the market was no longer running entirely Gazprom’s way. They could no longer mandate that Turkmenistan take the price that they offered at the time that Russia controlled all the pipelines that carried the gas to market. And with that change, and the changing natural gas market, so Gazprom’s fortunes have started to teeter.

At the same time the anticipated Russian market in the United States, which would have been supplied from newly developed Russian Artic reserves such as those in the Shtokman field are no longer needed, as the American shale gases have come onto the market in increasing quantities. The world has, in short, become a somewhat less favorable place for Gazprom and the Chinese have hesitated to commit to a further order of natural gas, in part because they anticipate getting a better deal for the fuel than Gazprom would like them to pay.

Russia would like, and is anticipating, that the deal for some 38 billion cubic meters/year of natural gas, starting in 2018 will be signed when President Putin visits China in May. (In context Russia, which supplies about 26% of European natural gas, sends them around 162 bcm per year). Negotiations over the sale of the gas have dragged on for years, having first started in 2004 but the major disagreement continues to be over price. At a time when Norway is seeing a peak in production and Qatar is moving more of its sales to Asia, Russia had seen an increase in European sales, and has been able to move that gas at a price of $387 per 1,000 cubic meters (or $10.54 per kcf/MMBtu. The price of such gas in the US is quite a bit cheaper.

Figure 1. Natural gas prices in the United States. (EIA )

Russia would like to get a price of around $400 per kcm ($10.89 per kcf) with the slight extra going to pay for the pipeline and delivery costs. Whether the two countries can come to an agreement on the price may well now depend on how vulnerable Russia really is to any pressure on its markets from other sources of natural gas. Japan, for example, is now considering re-opening its nuclear power stations, as the costs for imported fuel are having significant consequences on their attempts at economic growth.

Similarly there is talk that the United States may become a significant player on the world stage by exporting LNG as it moves into greater surplus at home, thereby providing another threat to Russian sales. Part of the problem with that idea comes from the costs of producing the gas, relative to the existing price being obtained for it, and part on the amount of natural gas viably available. Consider that, at present, some of the earlier shale gas fields, such as the Barnett, Fayetteville and Haynesville are showing signs of having peaked.

Figure 2. Monthly natural gas production from shale fields (EIA)

While production from the Marcellus continues to rise, there is some question as to whether the Eagle Ford is reaching peak productionalthough that discussion, at the moment relates more to oil production. However given that it is the liquid portion of the production that is the more profitable this still drives the question.

And in this regard, the rising costs of wells, against the more difficult to assure profits is beginning to have an impact on the willingness of companies in the United States to invest the large quantities of capital into new wells that is needed to sustain and grow production. A recent article in Rigzone took note that the major oil companies are rethinking their strategies of investment, with some reorganization of their plans in particular for investment in shale fields. This raises a question for the author:

Another question for the industry is who will supply the risk capital for exploratory drilling, both on and offshore, if the majors pull back their spending? Onshore, for the past few years, a chunk of that capital has been supplied by private equity investors who have supported exploration and production teams in start-up ventures. They have also provided additional capital to existing companies allowing them to purchase acreage or companies to improve their prospect inventory. Unfortunately, the results of the shale revolution have been disappointing, leading to significant asset impairment charges and negative cash flows as the spending to drill new wells in order to gain and hold leases has exceeded production revenues, given the drop in domestic natural gas prices. Will that capital continue to be available, or will it, too, begin demanding profits rather than reserve additions and production growth?

Before investors put up the money for new LNG plants they need to be assured that there will be a financial return for that investment. Given that it takes time for such a market to evolve, and given the need that Russia has to sustain its market and potentially to increase it, the volumes that the US might put into play are likely to be small, with little other than political impact likely.

If Russia recognizes this, and feels relatively confident that Europe must continue to buy natural gas from Gazprom, particularly with the current move by Europe away from other sources of fuel such as coal, then they are likely to be more resistant to bringing the price down for their Chinese customers. On the other hand if China thinks that it might be able to get a better deal from Iran, were sanctions to ease, or from other MENA countries, then – thinking perhaps that Russia needs the sale more – they might toughen their position and the price debate may continue.

It will be interesting to see if it resolves within the next few weeks, and if so, at what a price.

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Russia Is Slowly Turning The NatGas Tap Off To Europe | Zero Hedge

Russia Is Slowly Turning The NatGas Tap Off To Europe | Zero Hedge.

While Naftogaz (Ukraine’s gas pipeline operator) states that all gas transportation from Russia to Europe is running normally, Bloomberg reports that Russian natgas exports to Europe are declining.Shipments are down over 4% from the prior week and also lower to Ukraine. This ‘adjustment’ follows increased sanctions by the West as Medvedev’s notable statement this morning that Ukraine owes Russia $16bn.

NatGas output is tumbling

The good news:

Gazprom today said natgas transit to Europe via Ukraine, supplies for Ukrainian consumption  

But Pay Up…

Ukraine owes Russia $11b after collapse of 2010 deal, Russian Prime Minsiter Dmitry Medvedev says to President Vladimir Putin at Security Council meeting, according to transcript on Kremlin website.

 

Medvedev adds $3b Ukraine bonds bought in Dec., ~$2b debt to Gazprom for natgas supplies

 

NOTE: In 2010, Russia agreed to sell natgas at discount in exchange for extending lease to Black Sea naval port of Sevastopol in Crimea to 2042 from 2017

Or Else…

Russian natgas exports to Europe and Turkey, excl. former Soviet Union, declined to 405.3mcm as of March 22,  according to Bloomberg calculations based on preliminary data from Energy Ministry’s CDU-TEK unit.

 

Avg daily exports to region were ~457mcm in March, lower than yr earlier: calculations based on CDU-TEK data

 

Shipments March 16-22 were 3.04bcm, 4% decrease vs level in week ended March 15

It is too early to see a trend, but for now, the direction is not hopeful for Europe.

Furthermore, Gazprom has cut its Diesel output by the most in 7 months…

 

and then… (via NY Times),

Russia is now asking close to $500 for 1,000 cubic meters of gas, the standard unit for gas trade in Europe, which is a price about a third higher than what Russia’s gas company, Gazprom, charges clients elsewhere.

 

Russia says the increase is justified because it seized control of the Crimean Peninsula, where its Black Sea naval fleet is stationed, ending the need to pay rent for the Sevastopol base. The base rent had been paid in the form of a $100 per 1,000 cubic meter discount on natural gas for Ukraine’s national energy company, Naftogaz.

And if that’s not clear enough…

Russia Is Slowly Turning The NatGas Tap Off To Europe | Zero Hedge

Russia Is Slowly Turning The NatGas Tap Off To Europe | Zero Hedge.

While Naftogaz (Ukraine’s gas pipeline operator) states that all gas transportation from Russia to Europe is running normally, Bloomberg reports that Russian natgas exports to Europe are declining.Shipments are down over 4% from the prior week and also lower to Ukraine. This ‘adjustment’ follows increased sanctions by the West as Medvedev’s notable statement this morning that Ukraine owes Russia $16bn.

NatGas output is tumbling

The good news:

Gazprom today said natgas transit to Europe via Ukraine, supplies for Ukrainian consumption  

But Pay Up…

Ukraine owes Russia $11b after collapse of 2010 deal, Russian Prime Minsiter Dmitry Medvedev says to President Vladimir Putin at Security Council meeting, according to transcript on Kremlin website.

 

Medvedev adds $3b Ukraine bonds bought in Dec., ~$2b debt to Gazprom for natgas supplies

 

NOTE: In 2010, Russia agreed to sell natgas at discount in exchange for extending lease to Black Sea naval port of Sevastopol in Crimea to 2042 from 2017

Or Else…

Russian natgas exports to Europe and Turkey, excl. former Soviet Union, declined to 405.3mcm as of March 22,  according to Bloomberg calculations based on preliminary data from Energy Ministry’s CDU-TEK unit.

 

Avg daily exports to region were ~457mcm in March, lower than yr earlier: calculations based on CDU-TEK data

 

Shipments March 16-22 were 3.04bcm, 4% decrease vs level in week ended March 15

It is too early to see a trend, but for now, the direction is not hopeful for Europe.

Furthermore, Gazprom has cut its Diesel output by the most in 7 months…

 

and then… (via NY Times),

Russia is now asking close to $500 for 1,000 cubic meters of gas, the standard unit for gas trade in Europe, which is a price about a third higher than what Russia’s gas company, Gazprom, charges clients elsewhere.

 

Russia says the increase is justified because it seized control of the Crimean Peninsula, where its Black Sea naval fleet is stationed, ending the need to pay rent for the Sevastopol base. The base rent had been paid in the form of a $100 per 1,000 cubic meter discount on natural gas for Ukraine’s national energy company, Naftogaz.

And if that’s not clear enough…

Petrodollar Alert: Putin Prepares To Announce "Holy Grail" Gas Deal With China | Zero Hedge

Petrodollar Alert: Putin Prepares To Announce “Holy Grail” Gas Deal With China | Zero Hedge.

If it was the intent of the West to bring Russia and China together – one a natural resource (if “somewhat” corrupt) superpower and the other a fixed capital / labor output (if “somewhat” capital misallocating and credit bubbleicious) powerhouse – in the process marginalizing the dollar and encouraging Ruble and Renminbi bilateral trade, then things are surely “going according to plan.”

For now there have been no major developments as a result of the shift in the geopolitical axis that has seen global US influence, away from the Group of 7 (most insolvent nations) of course, decline precipitously in the aftermath of the bungled Syrian intervention attempt and the bloodless Russian annexation of Crimea, but that will soon change. Because while the west is focused on day to day developments in Ukraine, and how to halt Russian expansion through appeasement (hardly a winning tactic as events in the 1930s demonstrated), Russia is once again thinking 3 steps ahead… and quite a few steps east.

While Europe is furiously scrambling to find alternative sources of energy should Gazprom pull the plug on natgas exports to Germany and Europe (the imminent surge in Ukraine gas prices by 40% is probably the best indication of what the outcome would be), Russia is preparing the announcement of the “Holy Grail” energy deal with none other than China, a move which would send geopolitical shockwaves around the world and bind the two nations in a commodity-backed axis. One which, as some especially on these pages, have suggested would lay the groundwork for a new joint, commodity-backed reserve currency that bypasses the dollar, something which Russia implied moments ago when its finance minister Siluanov said that Russia may regain from foreign borrowing this year. Translated: bypass western purchases of Russian debt, funded by Chinese purchases of US Treasurys, and go straight to the source.

Here is what will likely happen next, as explained by Reuters:

Igor Sechin gathered media in Tokyo the next day to warn Western governments that more sanctions over Moscow’s seizure of the Black Sea peninsula from Ukraine would be counter-productive.

 

The underlying message from the head of Russia’s biggest oil company, Rosneft, was clear: If Europe and the United States isolate Russia, Moscow will look East for new business, energy deals, military contracts and political alliances. 

 

The Holy Grail for Moscow is a natural gas supply deal with China that is apparently now close after years of negotiations. If it can be signed when Putin visits China in May, he will be able to hold it up to show that global power has shifted eastwards and he does not need the West.

More details on the revelation of said “Holy Grail”:

State-owned Russian gas firm Gazprom hopes to pump 38 billion cubic meters (bcm) of natural gas per year to China from 2018 via the first pipeline between the world’s largest producer of conventional gas to the largest consumer.

 

“May is in our plans,” a Gazprom spokesman said, when asked about the timing of an agreement. A company source said: “It would be logical to expect the deal during Putin’s visit to China.”

Summarizing what should be and is painfully obvious to all, but apparently to the White House, which keeps prodding at Russia, is the following:

The worse Russia’s relations are with the West, the closer Russia will want to be to China. If China supports you, no one can say you’re isolated,” said Vasily Kashin, a China expert at the Analysis of Strategies and Technologies (CAST) think thank.

Bingo. And now add bilateral trade denominated in either Rubles or Renminbi (or gold), add Iran, Iraq, India, and soon the Saudis (China’s largest foreign source of crude, whose crown prince alsohappened to meet president Xi Jinping last week to expand trade further) and wave goodbye to the petrodollar.

As reported previoisly, China has already implicitly backed Putin without risking it relations with the West. “Last Saturday China abstained in a U.N. Security Council vote on a draft resolution declaring invalid the referendum in which Crimea went on to back union with Russia. Although China is nervous about referendums in restive regions of other countries which might serve as a precedent for Tibet and Taiwan, it has refused to criticize Moscow. The support of Beijing is vital for Putin. Not only is China a fellow permanent member of the U.N. Security Council with whom Russia thinks alike, it is also the world’s second biggest economy and it opposes the spread of Western-style democracy.”

This culminated yesterday, when as we reported last night, Putin thanked China for its “understanding over Ukraine.” China hasn’t exactly kept its feelings about closer relations with Russia under wraps either:

Chinese President Xi Jinping showed how much he values ties with Moscow, and Putin in particular, by making Russia his first foreign visit as China’s leader last year and attending the opening of the Winter Olympics in Sochi last month.

 

Many Western leaders did not go to the Games after criticism of Russia’s record on human rights. By contrast, when Putin and Xi discussed Ukraine by telephone on March 4, the Kremlin said their positions were “close”.

The punchline: “A strong alliance would suit both countries as a counterbalance to the United States.” An alliance that would merely be an extension of current trends in close bilateral relations, including not only infrastructure investment but also military supplies:

However, China overtook Germany as Russia’s biggest buyer of crude oil this year thanks to Rosneft securing deals to boost eastward oil supplies via the East Siberia-Pacific Ocean pipeline and another crossing Kazakhstan.

 

If Russia is isolated by a new round of Western sanctions – those so far affect only a few officials’ assets abroad and have not been aimed at companies – Russia and China could also step up cooperation in areas apart from energy. CAST’s Kashin said the prospects of Russia delivering Sukhoi SU-35 fighter jets to China, which has been under discussion since 2010, would grow.

 

China is very interested in investing in infrastructure, energy and commodities in Russia, and a decline in business with the West could force Moscow to drop some of its reservations about Chinese investment in strategic industries. “With Western sanctions, the atmosphere could change quickly in favor of China,” said Brian Zimbler Managing Partner of Morgan Lewis international law firm’s Moscow office. 

 

Russia-China trade turnover grew by 8.2 percent in 2013 to $8.1 billion but Russia was still only China’s seventh largest export partner in 2013, and was not in the top 10 countries for imported goods. The EU is Russia’s biggest trade partner, accounting for almost half of all its trade turnover.

And as if pushing Russia into the warm embrace of the world’s most populous nation was not enough, there is also the second most populated country in the world, India.

Putin did take time, however, to thank one other country apart from China for its understanding over Ukraine and Crimea – saying India had shown “restraint and objectivity”.

 

He also called Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to discuss the crisis on Tuesday, suggesting there is room for Russia’s ties with traditionally non-aligned India to flourish.

 

Although India has become the largest export market for U.S. arms, Russia remains a key defense supplier and relations are friendly, even if lacking a strong business and trade dimension, due to a strategic partnership dating to the Soviet era.

 

Putin’s moves to assert Russian control over Crimea were seen very favorably in the Indian establishment, N. Ram, publisher of The Hindu newspaper, told Reuters. “Russia has legitimate interests,” he added.

To summarize: while the biggest geopolitical tectonic shift since the cold war accelerates with the inevitable firming of the “Asian axis”, the west monetizes its debt, revels in the paper wealth created from an all time high manipulated stock market while at the same time trying to explain why 6.5% unemployment is really indicative of a weak economy, blames the weather for every disappointing economic data point, and every single person is transfixed with finding a missing airplane.

Petrodollar Alert: Putin Prepares To Announce “Holy Grail” Gas Deal With China | Zero Hedge

Petrodollar Alert: Putin Prepares To Announce “Holy Grail” Gas Deal With China | Zero Hedge.

If it was the intent of the West to bring Russia and China together – one a natural resource (if “somewhat” corrupt) superpower and the other a fixed capital / labor output (if “somewhat” capital misallocating and credit bubbleicious) powerhouse – in the process marginalizing the dollar and encouraging Ruble and Renminbi bilateral trade, then things are surely “going according to plan.”

For now there have been no major developments as a result of the shift in the geopolitical axis that has seen global US influence, away from the Group of 7 (most insolvent nations) of course, decline precipitously in the aftermath of the bungled Syrian intervention attempt and the bloodless Russian annexation of Crimea, but that will soon change. Because while the west is focused on day to day developments in Ukraine, and how to halt Russian expansion through appeasement (hardly a winning tactic as events in the 1930s demonstrated), Russia is once again thinking 3 steps ahead… and quite a few steps east.

While Europe is furiously scrambling to find alternative sources of energy should Gazprom pull the plug on natgas exports to Germany and Europe (the imminent surge in Ukraine gas prices by 40% is probably the best indication of what the outcome would be), Russia is preparing the announcement of the “Holy Grail” energy deal with none other than China, a move which would send geopolitical shockwaves around the world and bind the two nations in a commodity-backed axis. One which, as some especially on these pages, have suggested would lay the groundwork for a new joint, commodity-backed reserve currency that bypasses the dollar, something which Russia implied moments ago when its finance minister Siluanov said that Russia may regain from foreign borrowing this year. Translated: bypass western purchases of Russian debt, funded by Chinese purchases of US Treasurys, and go straight to the source.

Here is what will likely happen next, as explained by Reuters:

Igor Sechin gathered media in Tokyo the next day to warn Western governments that more sanctions over Moscow’s seizure of the Black Sea peninsula from Ukraine would be counter-productive.

 

The underlying message from the head of Russia’s biggest oil company, Rosneft, was clear: If Europe and the United States isolate Russia, Moscow will look East for new business, energy deals, military contracts and political alliances. 

 

The Holy Grail for Moscow is a natural gas supply deal with China that is apparently now close after years of negotiations. If it can be signed when Putin visits China in May, he will be able to hold it up to show that global power has shifted eastwards and he does not need the West.

More details on the revelation of said “Holy Grail”:

State-owned Russian gas firm Gazprom hopes to pump 38 billion cubic meters (bcm) of natural gas per year to China from 2018 via the first pipeline between the world’s largest producer of conventional gas to the largest consumer.

 

“May is in our plans,” a Gazprom spokesman said, when asked about the timing of an agreement. A company source said: “It would be logical to expect the deal during Putin’s visit to China.”

Summarizing what should be and is painfully obvious to all, but apparently to the White House, which keeps prodding at Russia, is the following:

The worse Russia’s relations are with the West, the closer Russia will want to be to China. If China supports you, no one can say you’re isolated,” said Vasily Kashin, a China expert at the Analysis of Strategies and Technologies (CAST) think thank.

Bingo. And now add bilateral trade denominated in either Rubles or Renminbi (or gold), add Iran, Iraq, India, and soon the Saudis (China’s largest foreign source of crude, whose crown prince alsohappened to meet president Xi Jinping last week to expand trade further) and wave goodbye to the petrodollar.

As reported previoisly, China has already implicitly backed Putin without risking it relations with the West. “Last Saturday China abstained in a U.N. Security Council vote on a draft resolution declaring invalid the referendum in which Crimea went on to back union with Russia. Although China is nervous about referendums in restive regions of other countries which might serve as a precedent for Tibet and Taiwan, it has refused to criticize Moscow. The support of Beijing is vital for Putin. Not only is China a fellow permanent member of the U.N. Security Council with whom Russia thinks alike, it is also the world’s second biggest economy and it opposes the spread of Western-style democracy.”

This culminated yesterday, when as we reported last night, Putin thanked China for its “understanding over Ukraine.” China hasn’t exactly kept its feelings about closer relations with Russia under wraps either:

Chinese President Xi Jinping showed how much he values ties with Moscow, and Putin in particular, by making Russia his first foreign visit as China’s leader last year and attending the opening of the Winter Olympics in Sochi last month.

 

Many Western leaders did not go to the Games after criticism of Russia’s record on human rights. By contrast, when Putin and Xi discussed Ukraine by telephone on March 4, the Kremlin said their positions were “close”.

The punchline: “A strong alliance would suit both countries as a counterbalance to the United States.” An alliance that would merely be an extension of current trends in close bilateral relations, including not only infrastructure investment but also military supplies:

However, China overtook Germany as Russia’s biggest buyer of crude oil this year thanks to Rosneft securing deals to boost eastward oil supplies via the East Siberia-Pacific Ocean pipeline and another crossing Kazakhstan.

 

If Russia is isolated by a new round of Western sanctions – those so far affect only a few officials’ assets abroad and have not been aimed at companies – Russia and China could also step up cooperation in areas apart from energy. CAST’s Kashin said the prospects of Russia delivering Sukhoi SU-35 fighter jets to China, which has been under discussion since 2010, would grow.

 

China is very interested in investing in infrastructure, energy and commodities in Russia, and a decline in business with the West could force Moscow to drop some of its reservations about Chinese investment in strategic industries. “With Western sanctions, the atmosphere could change quickly in favor of China,” said Brian Zimbler Managing Partner of Morgan Lewis international law firm’s Moscow office. 

 

Russia-China trade turnover grew by 8.2 percent in 2013 to $8.1 billion but Russia was still only China’s seventh largest export partner in 2013, and was not in the top 10 countries for imported goods. The EU is Russia’s biggest trade partner, accounting for almost half of all its trade turnover.

And as if pushing Russia into the warm embrace of the world’s most populous nation was not enough, there is also the second most populated country in the world, India.

Putin did take time, however, to thank one other country apart from China for its understanding over Ukraine and Crimea – saying India had shown “restraint and objectivity”.

 

He also called Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to discuss the crisis on Tuesday, suggesting there is room for Russia’s ties with traditionally non-aligned India to flourish.

 

Although India has become the largest export market for U.S. arms, Russia remains a key defense supplier and relations are friendly, even if lacking a strong business and trade dimension, due to a strategic partnership dating to the Soviet era.

 

Putin’s moves to assert Russian control over Crimea were seen very favorably in the Indian establishment, N. Ram, publisher of The Hindu newspaper, told Reuters. “Russia has legitimate interests,” he added.

To summarize: while the biggest geopolitical tectonic shift since the cold war accelerates with the inevitable firming of the “Asian axis”, the west monetizes its debt, revels in the paper wealth created from an all time high manipulated stock market while at the same time trying to explain why 6.5% unemployment is really indicative of a weak economy, blames the weather for every disappointing economic data point, and every single person is transfixed with finding a missing airplane.

Another Escalation: US Freezes Diplomatic Relations With Syria, Orders Non-US Personnel To Leave Country | Zero Hedge

Another Escalation: US Freezes Diplomatic Relations With Syria, Orders Non-US Personnel To Leave Country | Zero Hedge.

Putin 2 – Obama 0, which means it is time to go back to the one place where it all started last year, and where Putin had his most resounding victory over the US foreign policy apparatus (at least until the Ukraine, where we trampled not only over Obama’s red line… again… but where nobody quite explained the “costs” to the ex-KGB leader): Syria.  Sure enough, with the US unable to respond in Crimea, has decided to take its fight back to where Europe’s natgas reliance on Gazprom product was first truly exposed.

BREAKING: US freezes diplomatic, consular relations with Syria; Orders non-US personnel to leave country.

— The Associated Press (@AP) March 18, 2014

The US can order non-US personnel around? More from Reuters:

  • U.S.
    IMMEDIATELY SUSPENDS OPERATIONS OF SYRIAN EMBASSY IN WASHINGTON, AS
    WELL AS HONORARY CONSULATES IN MICHIGAN AND TEXAS – STATE DEPARTMENT
  • U.S.
    SPECIAL ENVOY FOR SYRIA SAYS ‘UNACCEPTABLE’ FOR INDIVIDUALS APPOINTED
    BY ASSAD REGIME TO CONDUCT DIPLOMATIC, CONSULAR OPERATIONS IN U.S.

Regardless, if the bloodless Russian annexation of Crimea wasn’t enough to push the S&P to new all time highs, this surely will.

Another Escalation: US Freezes Diplomatic Relations With Syria, Orders Non-US Personnel To Leave Country | Zero Hedge

Another Escalation: US Freezes Diplomatic Relations With Syria, Orders Non-US Personnel To Leave Country | Zero Hedge.

Putin 2 – Obama 0, which means it is time to go back to the one place where it all started last year, and where Putin had his most resounding victory over the US foreign policy apparatus (at least until the Ukraine, where we trampled not only over Obama’s red line… again… but where nobody quite explained the “costs” to the ex-KGB leader): Syria.  Sure enough, with the US unable to respond in Crimea, has decided to take its fight back to where Europe’s natgas reliance on Gazprom product was first truly exposed.

BREAKING: US freezes diplomatic, consular relations with Syria; Orders non-US personnel to leave country.

— The Associated Press (@AP) March 18, 2014

The US can order non-US personnel around? More from Reuters:

  • U.S.
    IMMEDIATELY SUSPENDS OPERATIONS OF SYRIAN EMBASSY IN WASHINGTON, AS
    WELL AS HONORARY CONSULATES IN MICHIGAN AND TEXAS – STATE DEPARTMENT
  • U.S.
    SPECIAL ENVOY FOR SYRIA SAYS ‘UNACCEPTABLE’ FOR INDIVIDUALS APPOINTED
    BY ASSAD REGIME TO CONDUCT DIPLOMATIC, CONSULAR OPERATIONS IN U.S.

Regardless, if the bloodless Russian annexation of Crimea wasn’t enough to push the S&P to new all time highs, this surely will.

16% of Natural Gas Consumed in Europe Flows Through Ukraine  |  Peak Oil News and Message Boards

16% of Natural Gas Consumed in Europe Flows Through Ukraine  |  Peak Oil News and Message Boards.

map of major Russia-Europe natural gas transit lines, as explained in the article text

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, IHS EDIN, and International Energy Agency
Note: Representations of international boundaries and names are not authoritative.

Europe, including all EU members plus Turkey, Norway, Switzerland, and the non-EU Balkan states, consumed 18.7 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of natural gas in 2013. Russia supplied 30% (5.7 Tcf) of this volume, with a significant amount flowing through Ukraine. EIA estimates that 16% (3.0 Tcf) of the total natural gas consumed in Europe passed through Ukraine’s pipeline network, based on data reported by Gazprom and Eastern Bloc Energy.

Two major pipeline systems carry Russian gas through Ukraine to Western Europe—the Bratstvo (Brotherhood) and Soyuz (Union) pipelines. The Bratstvo pipeline is Russia’s largest pipeline to Europe. It crosses from Ukraine to Slovakia and splits in two to supply northern and southern European countries. The Soyuz pipeline links Russian pipelines to natural gas networks in Central Asia and supplies additional volumes to central and northern Europe. A third major pipeline through Ukraine (Trans-Balkan) delivers Russian natural gas to the Balkan countries and Turkey.

In the past, as much as 80% of Russian natural gas exports to Europe transited 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.

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).

graph of Russian natural gas exports to Europe through Ukraine, as explained in the article text

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, International Energy Agency, and Eastern Bloc Energy

For more information, see EIA’s country analysis note on Ukraine.

Principal contributor: Alexander Metelitsa

IEA.gov

16% of Natural Gas Consumed in Europe Flows Through Ukraine  |  Peak Oil News and Message Boards

16% of Natural Gas Consumed in Europe Flows Through Ukraine  |  Peak Oil News and Message Boards.

map of major Russia-Europe natural gas transit lines, as explained in the article text

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, IHS EDIN, and International Energy Agency
Note: Representations of international boundaries and names are not authoritative.

Europe, including all EU members plus Turkey, Norway, Switzerland, and the non-EU Balkan states, consumed 18.7 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of natural gas in 2013. Russia supplied 30% (5.7 Tcf) of this volume, with a significant amount flowing through Ukraine. EIA estimates that 16% (3.0 Tcf) of the total natural gas consumed in Europe passed through Ukraine’s pipeline network, based on data reported by Gazprom and Eastern Bloc Energy.

Two major pipeline systems carry Russian gas through Ukraine to Western Europe—the Bratstvo (Brotherhood) and Soyuz (Union) pipelines. The Bratstvo pipeline is Russia’s largest pipeline to Europe. It crosses from Ukraine to Slovakia and splits in two to supply northern and southern European countries. The Soyuz pipeline links Russian pipelines to natural gas networks in Central Asia and supplies additional volumes to central and northern Europe. A third major pipeline through Ukraine (Trans-Balkan) delivers Russian natural gas to the Balkan countries and Turkey.

In the past, as much as 80% of Russian natural gas exports to Europe transited 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.

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).

graph of Russian natural gas exports to Europe through Ukraine, as explained in the article text

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, International Energy Agency, and Eastern Bloc Energy

For more information, see EIA’s country analysis note on Ukraine.

Principal contributor: Alexander Metelitsa

IEA.gov

Gazprom Chairman Sold All His Shares Just Before Russia Invaded Crimea | Zero Hedge

Gazprom Chairman Sold All His Shares Just Before Russia Invaded Crimea | Zero Hedge.

We are sure it is just coincidence – and awkward combination of luck and suspicious timing – but Vedomosti reports that Viktor Zubkov, the Chairman of Russia’s massive energy monopoly Gazprom, dumped his entire stake in the company just a few weeks before Vladimir Putin crossed the red line. Gazprom shares have dropped 25% in the last 3 weeks so his timing was impeccible.

 

 

Via Vedomosti (Google Translate),

The Chairman of the Board of Directors “Gazprom” Viktor Zubkov has sold his stake in the company, it follows from the monopoly.

The change in share occurred February 11, 2014, the issuer learned about it on March 13.

Now Zubkov 0% stake in the company.

Thus, Zubkov sold his shares prior to the collapse of the Russian stock market on March 3.

It’s good to have friends running the country eh? Thank you Mr. Putin. This is important as so many Western watchers believe a crumbling Russia stock market will prompt Putin to back away… it appears his Oligrach friends already got the nod…

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