The CSS Blog Network

Nord Stream 2: Trust in Europe

Nord Stream – two pipes are welded together, courtesy Bair175/wikipedia

This article was originally published by the Center for Security Studies (CSS) in its Policy Perspectives series (Vol. 4/4, March 2016).

The prospect of building the Nord Stream 2 pipeline between Russia and Germany is dividing the EU into two camps. By following geopolitical considerations, both sides are neglecting the concept of a liberalized natural gas market and are overlooking Europe’s favorable position in current international gas trade.

Key Points

  • Nord Stream 2 has turned out to be a symbolic conflict about how to deal with Russian gas imports and infrastructure projects
  • The German government has lost diplomatic reputation and credibility by politically backing Nord Stream 2
  • The EU needs to make clear, in how far a market approach or in how far a geopolitical approach is structuring its natural gas policies in general
  • When sticking to its liberalized gas market model, the EU Commission will have to evaluate Nord Stream 2 under existing regulation, not based on an undefined foreign policy assessment

When Russia’s Gazprom and its five European partners (BASF, E.ON, Engie, OMV and Shell) signed a declaration to build two new pipelines through the Baltic Sea (‘Nord Stream 2’) in September 2015, this came as a real surprise for most observers. The project would increase existing capacity from 55 to 110 billion cubic meters (bcm) a year by 2019. Gazprom would act as the main shareholder with a stake of 50 percent in the Swiss-based pipeline company. Nord Stream 2 will follow a similar route along the seabed as the first pipeline project that started deliveries in 2011. The project is completely financed by its shareholders and does not receive financial support from public sources of the EU or a Member State. It is clear that from the Russian side, not only the aspect of defending and maybe even the possibility of enlarging market shares in Europe, but also the geopolitical motivation of circumventing Ukrainian territory and reducing payments for Ukrainian transit play an important role in the project. After the Black Sea pipeline project ‘South Stream’ to Bulgaria was cancelled in 2014 and considerations to involve Turkey in the transit business have been put on hold, the Baltic Sea seems to be Gazprom’s most reliable and secure route to retain a hold on its most important market: Europe.

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How Attacks on Energy Infrastructure Affect Colombia’s Citizens

Electricity cables in Colombia

Electricity cables in Baranquilla, Colombia. Photo: Lucho Molina/flickr

In the last few months, attacks on Colombia’s energy infrastructure by the FARC and ELN have increased. While such attacks affect the lives of many ordinary Colombians, they are most often discussed within the bigger issue of terrorism.

However, there are a few Colombian bloggers who offer different perspectives.

Alejandro Gaviria describes [es] the gloomy panorama of attacks up to late August 2012: » More

Cameroon: Electric Dreams for Development by 2035

Power lines in Cameroon

Power lines over buildings in Cameroon, 2008. Photo by Zzilch on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

After his reelection in November 2011, President Paul Biya of Cameroon announced [fr] that the country would soon become a giant “construction site”. The goal for his new term is for Cameroon to reach emerging market status by 2035 through a series of “great achievements” in transport and energy infrastructure development [fr]. It’s a deadline that fails to convince [fr] many commentators, if only because the challenges are so great.

Energy, and specifically electricity, is especially problematic.  Like many other African countries, Cameroon suffers from insufficient electricity supplies.

Journalist Leopold Nséké explains in an article published in Afrique Expansion Magazine:

Underequipped, the African continent is awash in the obsolescence of its facilities and bore the brunt of poor management of available resources. Representing 15% of the world population, Africa consumes paradoxically only 3% of the total world production of electricity. » More

Electricity in Nigeria: (Sort of) Off and On

Power outages are a Nigerian norm, photo: Annemiek van der Kuil/flickr

This blog is part of a series of contributions documenting time spent in southern Nigeria to attend a conference and gather data for the targeting energy infrastructure (TEI) project.

In Nigeria, people celebrate when the lights come on. Admittedly, after barely a week in the country I too found myself joining in the collective, nationwide jubilee. The regular power outages throughout the country have created an emotional rollercoaster, whereby the mere act of sitting in a dark room that is at one moment illuminated by nothing more than a few flashlights (most of which are from mobile phones) and then at another buzzing with electricity. It’s nothing short of thrilling.

Yet the thrill soon dissipates in exchange for bewilderment. How can one of the top oil and gas producers in the world be short of energy to power its economy? Unfortunately, the irony doesn’t stop there. While millions of barrels of sweet, easily refined crude oil are shipped out of here daily to feed other economies, domestic fuel shortages have been a common feature in Nigeria. Years of militancy and criminal exploitation aimed at the oil and gas infrastructure in the energy-rich Niger Delta region mean there has been no development of new infrastructure, and overall mismanagement has limited the amount of supplies needed to feed domestic consumption. It wasn’t until last month that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) announced that fuel supplies exceeded national daily consumption rates for the first time in months. Accustomed to such scarcity, I found that most people frequently note when they see a station with short lines.

But the Nigerian civil society (and I would go further, to say African civil society) are extremely powerful, resourceful and innovative. What the state doesn’t provide, the community finds a way to supply. In the case of the energy shortages, Nigerians manage considerably well. For instance, the lively cyber café in Warri (which has become somewhat of a second home for me) is being powered by a generator as I scribble this blog. The actual power went off a long time ago. In fact, stepping outside one finds that the traffic noise is almost overwhelmed by the sounds of generators humming from most businesses. » More

A Rumble in Warri

MEND rebels and hostages, Niger Delta, photo: Dulue Mbachu/ISN Security Watch

This blog is part of a series of contributions documenting time spent in southern Nigeria to attend a conference and gather data for the targeting energy infrastructure (TEI) project.

Monday morning, while sitting in my host office at the Institute for Dispute Resolution (IDR) – a NGO based in Ekpan, Nigeria (a community next to Warri) and headed by Innocent Adjenughure – a thunderous noise caught my attention. I paused as the word bomb came to mind. After all, I was sitting in the heart of the Niger Delta, where up until October 2009 when an amnesty deal was achieved, the resource rich region was wrought with militancy and criminality. The emergence of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), a militant umbrella group, in 2005/6 introduced an intensified campaign of violence aimed largely at the country’s oil and gas sector that crippled production by as much as 30 percent.

So I waited and listened. In the absence of emergency sirens or some type of notification, I shrugged, passing it off as an approaching storm.

What I didn’t realize was that nearby the post-amnesty dialogue “Restoring Hope in the Niger Delta”, initiated by the Vanguard Newspaper in Nigeria and sponsored by the federal government and the nine states in the Niger Delta region, was kicking off at the Delta State Government Annex building in Warri. In fact, Innocent and I were scheduled to attend this meeting but mistakenly thought that the program began the following day. So as prominent government officials and stakeholders began to gather just before 11:00, the first of 2 car bombs, planted by MEND and parked on the street outside of the compound, were remotely detonated. Shortly after, the second bomb went off. By noon, participants were fleeing the area in panic, numbers were injured and at least two civilians were reportedly killed. » More

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