07MOSCOW875, RUSSIA’S GAS WEAKNESS

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07MOSCOW875 2007-03-01 14:38 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXRO1785
OO RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHMO #0875/01 0601438
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 011438Z MAR 07
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 7840
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING PRIORITY 4200
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL PRIORITY 2651
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO PRIORITY 4092
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEBAAA/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHDC PRIORITY
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 MOSCOW 000875 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR EUR KRAMER AND EUR/RUS/WARLICK 
DEPT FOR EB/ESC/IEC GALLOGLY AND GARVERICK 
DOE FOR HARBERT AND EKIMOFF 
DOC FOR 4231/IEP/EUR/JBROUGHER 
NSC FOR KLECHESKI 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/21/2017 
TAGS: EPET ENRG ECON PREL RS
SUBJECT: RUSSIA'S GAS WEAKNESS 
 
Classified By: Amb. William J. Burns.  Reasons 1.4 (b/d). 
 
1. (C) Summary.  Owing in part to rapid economic growth but 
also in large part to poorly managed resources by Gazprom, 
Russia is facing a gas production crunch.  While this problem 
was recognized early on by analysts, the GOR seems to have 
only awakened to the dilemma relatively recently.  Gazprom 
has been able to mask its weakness by ramping up production 
on one giant field, buying increasing amounts of gas from 
Central Asia and Russian independents, and relying on fairly 
stable demand growth.  But times are changing and neither the 
company nor the country can afford to be so complacent.  That 
is why we are seeing the GOR pair tariff increases for its 
Former Soviet Union (FSU) customers with domestic increases, 
and why they are paying more than lip service to the idea of 
weaning domestic industry from its gas addiction by boosting 
coal and nuclear. 
 
2. (C) We are also hearing that Gazprom's "national champion" 
image has taken a hit in some quarters of the government 
because it does not seem to be able to deliver what it 
promises.  If true, then this shift in sentiment may force 
Gazprom to do what it should have done before -- develop new 
fields, and work more like a normal business than it has to 
date.  There are signs that Gazprom is moving in this 
direction, given its recent decision to begin development of 
the Yamal Peninsula.  However, whether the gas giant has what 
it takes to meet this challenge is an open question and one 
that most in Moscow would answer in the negative.  The 
implications of Russia not getting it "right" are huge and 
avoiding such an outcome is a central preoccupation here. 
Increasingly, energy policy makers seem to be acting from a 
position of weakness rather than strength, and are beginning 
to recognize the need to get their domestic house in order. 
End Summary. 
. 
DEMAND/SUPPLY LOSING BALANCE 
---------------------------- 
. 
3. (C) As the IEA rightly pointed out this week, economic 
success and relatively stagnant gas supply have led Russia to 
a gas balance crisis.  Gas demand growth has been moving in 
lock-step with GDP growth (and accelerated in 2006), led 
largely by the call on gas from UES, the slowly-privatizing 
electricity monopoly, for both electricity and heat.  Based 
on 2006 statistics from the Ministry of Industry and Energy 
and the Russian State Statistical Service, Rosstat, Gazprom 
produced 556 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas, independent 
producers such as Novatek 51 bcm, and oil companies about 58 
bcm mostly in the form of associated gas.  Gazprom also 
imported 57 bcm from Central Asia, for a total "on hand" 
supply of 722 bcm.  Of this total, approximately 448 bcm went 
to domestic consumers (of which 160 to UES), 56 bcm to FSU 
customers, 164 bcm to other export markets (Europe including 
Turkey), and 54 bcm to technical losses and fuel needs 
internal to the gas system. 
 
4. (C) Defending itself publicly, Gazprom claims that it only 
supplies the gas that is demanded, implying that the company 
can ramp up production quickly to meet spikes in demand. 
However, many analysts doubt this, instead believing that 
Russia has very little excess gas production capacity on 
hand.  In fact, some estimates showed that during last 
winter's record-breaking cold spell, the system operated at a 
deficit of at least 4 bcm -- less than 1 percent of supply 
but enough to result in rolling blackouts, selected industry 
shutdowns, and several deaths from freezing.  When we 
contacted them almost daily during their repair work after 
the Georgian gas pipeline explosion, Gazprom made it clear 
that the system was stretched thin as Ukraine continued to 
draw large supplies, Europe took all it could, and Gazprom 
diverted supplies from the Georgian line to Azerbaijan for 
transshipment to Georgia.  Most projections show 2006 as the 
year Gazprom moved from being a steady injector into gas 
storage to a steady withdrawer of stored gas. 
. 
COMPOUNDING THE PROBLEM 
----------------------- 
. 
 
MOSCOW 00000875  002 OF 004 
 
 
5. (C) Meanwhile, Putin and Gazprom have been promising 
Europe and China more gas.  Filling the NordStream pipeline 
will require 28 bcm/y starting in 2010 (growing to up to 55 
bcm/y), meeting commitments to China will require another 
60-80 bcm/y starting in 2011, and fulfilling agreements with 
Europe through existing (in some cases expanded) 
infrastructure will demand another roughly 20 bcm/y by 2010. 
Continuing economic growth in Russia will press suppliers 
even more.  Brunswi
ck UBS estimates that total domestic 
demand will rise by about 30 bcm/y by 2010 and by around 10 
bcm/y per year after that.  All told, UBS and others see the 
need to come up with something like an additional 220-250 
bcm/y by 2015 to cover domestic, FSU, and non-FSU demand. 
. 
SMOKE AND MIRRORS 
----------------- 
. 
6. (C) Until recently, Gazprom has been able to meet the 
marginal call on gas by relying more on gas from independents 
and Russian oil companies and maxing out Central Asian flows. 
 UBS estimates that Central Asian exports to Russia could 
grow by 20-50 bcm/y by 2015, although many still doubt such 
high volumes.  Several analysts estimate that the independent 
producers could grow production by 100 bcm/y or even a bit 
more by 2015 provided the right incentives, especially 
pipeline access and higher domestic prices.  That still 
leaves half of future demand growth unmet -- or risk losing 
market share -- and it is unlikely that Turkmenistan, 
Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan are in any position to fill this 
void.  The Central Asian option was always a marginal, 
nibbling-at-the-edges solution given the size of Russia's gas 
market, as evidenced by the region's share in Russia's supply 
figures (57 bcm of 722 bcm in 2006). 
. 
FROM HERE, WHERE? 
----------------- 
. 
7. (C) In sum, Gazprom is operating in an environment 
characterized by increasing domestic demand, stagnating 
domestic supply (due largely to lack of investment), marginal 
alternative sources of supply (Central Asia), Gazprom's 
desire to maximize volumes to its lucrative European market, 
and increasing volume commitments to old (Europe) and new 
(China) customers.  In the face of this, the GOR is left with 
two principal options -- develop new gas fields and/or stifle 
gas demand at home by raising prices and pushing alternative 
fuels for electric power. 
. 
GO GET THE GAS! 
--------------- 
. 
8. (C) The obvious solution to this gas balance problem for a 
nation that sits on one-third of the world's gas reserves is 
to invest more in the upstream and invest in efficiency 
throughout the chain.  Gazprom has not done the former (for 
the most part) and the GOR has not provided incentives for 
the latter.  Since 1999, Gazprom has only added about 30 
bcm/y while domestic consumption has grown by almost 50 
bcm/y.  Gazprom has brought on-stream only one major field 
since the fall of the Soviet Union, Zapolyarnoye, which is 
now producing 100 bcm/y.  However, Zapolyarnoe little more 
than offsets the massive declines in Gazprom's "big three" 
fields -- Urengoy, Yamburg, and Medvezhye -- and is itself at 
peak production.  To address this problem, Putin reportedly 
temporarily shelved moving forward on Shtokman development in 
large part because he needed assurances of supply from 
Gazprom to fulfill his commitments to foreign customers. 
This has led Gazprom to opt for more familiar territory on 
the Yamal Peninsula, starting with the huge Bovanenko field. 
. 
SPUR SUPPLY, DAMPEN DEMAND 
-------------------------- 
. 
9. (C) On gas pricing, Gazprom has long complained that 
insufficient investment resulted from domestic gas prices 
(2/3 of its gas is sold domestically) that are never allowed 
to rise faster than inflation, meaning that Gazprom 
perpetually just breaks even or loses money in the domestic 
market.  Export earnings must be funneled to upkeep, 
 
MOSCOW 00000875  003 OF 004 
 
 
especially in the pipeline network, leaving little for new 
field development.  Critics partly agree with Gazprom's price 
complaints but argue that Gazprom is simply inherently 
inefficient.  They contend that with higher prices, Gazprom 
should have begun developing new fields several years ago but 
instead went on a binge of exotic pursuits, acquisitions, and 
non-core activities. 
. 
10. (C) On January 31, the Russian Cabinet approved a plan to 
raise gas (and electricity) tariffs to European netback 
levels (European prices less taxes and transport costs) by 
2011.  The plan also calls for the maximum use of alternative 
fuels such as nuclear and coal, but this would still mean the 
need for a minimum of 30 bcm more gas by 2010 and of course 
even more beyond that if alternatives are slow in coming.  It 
also calls for an ambitious series of corollary actions such 
as a ten-fold increase in the commissioning of coal-fired 
plants after 2010 compared with 2006-2010, the rapid 
decommissioning of gas-fired plants, mothballing rather than 
dismantling plants to serve as fuel oil-fired emergency 
back-ups, siting new plants near coal deposits, and 
constructing massive new high-voltage lines to high-load 
regions. 
. 
BEYOND PRODUCTION AND PRICES 
---------------------------- 
. 
11. (C) Gazprom's plans to invest in Yamal and the GOR's plan 
to raise domestic tariffs are good first steps in solving the 
gas crunch problem.  More needs to be done, however.  Gazprom 
will need to cede more pipeline space to independents; be 
better prepared to invest in more expensive and 
technologically challenging regions like Yamal, East Siberia, 
and the offshore; reach an accommodation with operators such 
as TNK-BP and Rosneft that hold licenses to immense gas 
reserves; more keenly protect its market capitalization to 
secure financing, meaning greater attention to corporate 
governance, accounting, and efficiency -- not strengths of 
the company; and reduce flaring and "technical losses" 
throughout the pipeline network. 
. 
IMPLICATIONS 
------------ 
. 
12. (C) One obvious manifestation of this ferment on the 
Russian gas scene is the decision to raise gas prices to its 
FSU customers.  Russia has decided it cannot afford the 
luxury anymore of subsidizing these states, and so everyone 
seems headed for above $200/tcm gas.  Regarding Azerbaijan 
recently, for example, Russia decided it would rather not 
sell volumes at all than sell them cheap.  In that sense, 
Russia's internal gas problems are already spurring the 
identification and realization of alternative supplies and 
transportation routes throughout Eurasia and encouraging 
countries (Ukraine is a great example) to restructure 
industry to accommodate more expensive gas supplies.  Viewed 
in this light, both of these trends -- toward market prices 
and toward diversification -- are welcome outcomes partly 
resulting from Russia's own problems rather than to its 
clout. As the Ukrainian situation demonstrated this past 
year, price rises to the FSU demonstrably reduce demand for 
gas -- making this policy option a two-fer from the GOR 
perspective. 
 
13. (C) Finally, there should be huge commercial 
opportunities in this situation for our companies, regardless 
of whether their Russian counterpart will be one giant state 
company or a smaller state company and many independents. 
Energy efficiency need
s throughout the economy (but 
especially in gas and electric power), moving to more remote 
terrain for gas production, or moving industry towards 
alternative fuels will drive demand for better technology and 
project management and will open up a number of upstream 
opportunities for foreign firms. 
. 
COMMENT 
------- 
. 
14.  (C) Energy diversification and greater efficiency in 
 
MOSCOW 00000875  004 OF 004 
 
 
Eurasia, movement towards market prices, ending subsidies, 
and ramping up investment for the first time since the Soviet 
era are all tied (to varying degrees) to the fundamental 
weakness in Russia's gas market, not its strength. 
Regardless of Russia's motivation, we should, for our own 
purposes, look for ways to help all make this inevitable 
transition as smooth as possible, keeping open the 
possibility of a more receptive investment environment in 
coming years.  One area for immediate cooperation is in the 
politically benign but vital area of improving Russia's 
energy efficiency and helping Russia move to clean coal 
technologies, a major focus of our own energy policy. 
 
15. (C) On the cautionary side, the magnitude of Russia's gas 
problem is such that failure to "get it right" could make 
Russian gas a global energy security problem.  The fact that 
the domestic debate is so lively is proof that authorities 
are aware that their precious European export streams are 
vulnerable in the end to a gas supply crunch that ultimately 
threatens the Russian economy.  The GOR is looking to avoid 
the choice of whether to cut exports or domestic supplies by 
finding enough gas and driving tariffs (and thereby 
efficiency) up.  Looking ahead, and understanding how poorly 
the machine of government works here, we will have a ringside 
seat as the imperative to succeed collides with Russia's 
often ham-fisted approach to energy politics. 
BURNS

Wikileaks

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