The “Nord Stream-2” issue remains at the agenda of both Ukraine’s foreign policy and Europe as a whole. Given the recent issues and statements about the pipeline, there is a need to look into them more detailed.
The Russian “Gazprom” announced the completion of the “Nord Stream-2” construction on the 10th September. The operating company informed that it expected to undergo the certification process and begin to exploit the gas pipeline this year. .
According to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Serhiy Lavrov the process of obtaining the necessary licenses from a German regulator is still going on. This procedure may last about four months. That is why the Nord Stream-2 will probably be launched in 2022.
It means that we still have some time. Ukraine should further claim the assurances of its energy security from its Western partners. One of the assurances is that Ukraine should remain a transit country for Russian gas. Given the current developments Russia may refuse to use the Ukrainian gas transmission system and transportation of gas through our pipeline to Eastern European countries may be endangered.
However, this “assurance” is very questionable now as the Hungarian state company MVM CEEnergy Ltd had signed a long-term contract with the “Gazprom” to supply 4,5 bln cubic meters of gas annually bypassing Ukraine on the 27th September. To be more precise, 3,5 bln cubic meters will be delivered through Serbia via the “Turkstream” gas pipeline and its land part through the Balkans, and 1 bln cubic meters of gas will be supplied through Austria.
The contract is concluded for 15 years with the possibility of its revision after 10 years. The agreement came into force on the 1st October.
Apparently, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine stated that it was surprised and disappointed by the Hungarian decision.
«We consider it as a purely political, economically unreasonable decision taken in favour of the Kremlin and to the detriment of Ukraine's national interests and Ukrainian-Hungarian relations» statement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs mentioned.
In return, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Hungary Peter Szijjarto accused Ukraine of interfering in the country’s domestic affairs.
«(European) gas consumption will not decline, and Gazprom's role will not decline either. Energy safety is a matter of security, sovereignty and economy rather than a political matter in Hungary. You cannot heat homes with political statements.», – the Minister said.
Given this situation it becomes clear that we can rely to a greater degree only on ourselves on issues of our own energy security. Perhaps it would be a smart decision to draw attention to a critical condition of the Ukrainian gas transmission system. Even if the majority of assurances for our country remains, the system may start to “malfunction” at any moment.
The accident in the main gas pipeline KZU-1 in September 2020 showed that the Ukrainian gas transmission system had weak spots. Although an operator of the Ukrainian gas transmission system claims that it is investing money in modernization, experts have been repeatedly warning that we can not let our guard down.
Fortunately, there was no ignition and an explosion of gas-air mixture in the Kyiv region then, although the main gas pipeline with a diameter of 1020 mm got depressurized. It transmitted thousands of cubic meters of gas every second under the pressure of 50 atmospheres.
It is clear that pipelines that were constructed in the 60-70ies of the last century do not get more reliable each year. That is why it is very important to conduct technical maintenance and preventive measures at the gas transmission system on time. It will allow to avoid accidents and industrial disasters. However the best way is to carry out the full modernization of the gas transmission system. Ukraine should show that our pipeline does not “lag behind” and that we should be the front liners instead.