‘Drill, baby, drill’ returns to Europe as gas crisis looms

But after the governments of the Netherlands and Germany approved the development of a new gas field about 12 miles off the coast of Schiermonnikoog, the island’s mayor worries about his future.

“We are very concerned that gas drilling will damage this area,” Mayor Ineke said. Van Gent told CNN Business. “We also believe that there is no need to drill [for] new gas in general and that we should invest much more in renewable energy.”

The gas project, which spans Germany and the Netherlands in the North Sea, is just one venture that has been greenlit or given a new look in Europe and the United Kingdom since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Europe desperately safe gas supplies that cannot be stopped at the whim of Moscow. Last week EU leaders set a voluntary target cut gas consumption by 15% by March 2023 to avoid a crisis as soon as the weather changes.
Yet scientists, activists and locals in places like Schiermonnikoog are disappointed. They believe that governments are using the war in Ukraine as political cover for projects not launched in time to help this winter, which could ultimately make the situation more difficult to control. global warming.

The gas field near Schiermonnikoog is not to start supplying gas to Dutch and German households until 2024. Once launched, it can run for decades, with licenses valid until 2042.

“Basically, we need to get rid of all fossil fuels, and we need to get rid of them very quickly,” said Han Dolman, director of the Royal Netherlands Institute for Marine Research, who opposes the project. “This is not an immediate solution to anything. [related to] gas crisis in Russia.

ONE-Dyas, the Dutch development company, said it has been in frequent contact with local stakeholders since 2018 and has produced an extensive environmental impact report that has been reviewed by regulators. Domestically produced gas also has lower emissions than natural gas imported from other countries.

Great Gas Rush

Europe’s fight to secure gas supplies begins as Russia signals its willingness to punish the bloc for supporting Ukraine. The state-owned Gazprom recently reduced flows through the critical Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline. up to 20% of daily capacity.

According to Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency, the situation in Europe is “dangerous” and the region must prepare for a “long and harsh winter.”

According to the IEA, even if European countries manage to fill their gas storage facilities by 90%, the region is likely to face supply disruptions early next year if Russia decides to stop gas supplies from October.

Sunrise over the gas receiving station of the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline in the Baltic Sea in Lubmin, Germany.

This risk has prompted countries to seek alternative fuel sources and save what they can.

It also made it possible for politicians to support the expansion of the gas sector with a conviction that would have been unthinkable just a year ago due to climate concerns. Since February, government officials have lifted production restrictions and approved new drilling sites, often citing the need for pragmatism at a time of high stress.

Denmark, which announced plans to phase out fossil fuels in 2020, increase in production from fields in the North Sea for which there are already licenses. Hungary stated that it would increase domestic natural gas production up to 2 billion cubic meters m from 1.5 billion cubic meters. Shell continues with a new natural gas development in the North Sea after the UK government gave the go-ahead in June by overturning an earlier decision to block the project on environmental grounds.
“We are actively working on renewable energy and nuclear energy, but now we are also realistic about our energy needs,” said Kwasi Kwarteng, UK Secretary of State for Business and Energy. tweeted after the decision. According to a new report from consultancy BFY Group, average electricity bills in the United Kingdom could top £500 ($613) in January alone.
Construction work on a castle island in Brunsbüttel, northern Germany, in early March.  A North Sea port could be the site for a new LNG terminal.
Meanwhile, governments are seeking to expand their ability to obtain liquefied natural gas, or LNG, which is an attractive alternative to gas from Russia because it can be shipped from allies on tankers rather than via a pipeline from Russia. Global Energy Monitor, a US think tank, lists at least 25 projects to build or expand LNG terminals in Europe and the UK that have been recently proposed or resurrected since the start of the war in Ukraine.

“You’re just watching this world turn 180 degrees,” said Oswald Klint, an energy analyst at Sanford Bernstein.

Long term view

Some of these gas projects could increase energy supplies to Europe this winter if Russian President Vladimir Putin cuts off flows from Russia.

Canadian company Zenith Energy, which said last month that well reactivation in northeast Italy, which will produce 1,300 cubic meters of gas per day, is expected to start production between October and December.

Luca Benedetto, chief financial officer, said in a statement that the decision was made “in the context of a growing need for energy security within Europe and a very encouraging pricing climate.”

Others will not start for some time. Shell estimates that the Jackdaw gas field in the British North Sea will come online “in the mid-2020s”. Floating LNG storage and regasification terminal recently acquired Italian gas infrastructure operator Snam and will be installed off the coast of Ravenna, will not begin operation until the second half of 2024.

Tara Connolly, an invited Global Witness campaigner based in Brussels, said one of her concerns is that the projects will not be needed once they are actually completed.

“Just before Ukraine, there really was a feeling that there was enough gas infrastructure in Europe, even in the event of a major disruption,” Connolly said. “Now it’s really a different picture.”

In addition, given the timing, renewables could fill gap instead of natural gas, which Connolly says has a smaller carbon footprint than oil and coal but still contributes to global warming.

environmental risk

This opinion is shared by Mayor Schiermonnikog. She also worries about protecting the delicate UNESCO World Heritage Site.

“My main concern [the] subsidence, which means that we also have problems living on the water,” said van Gent.

Nearby is the onshore gas field Groningen, a joint venture Shell (RDSA) as well as Exxon (XOM) which was once one of the largest sources of gas supplies to Europe – is now collapse due to earthquakes. A 2016 report showed that there were 271 seismic events of magnitude 1.5 or greater.
A bird stands next to a pillar of natural gas production equipment and pipelines at the onshore Groningen gas field.
This is not a problem for the Schiermonnikoog field, which will be offshore. But the environmental impact must also be considered, says Dolman, a scientist who, along with 432 other scientists, signed the letter opposing the new Dutch development.

“It’s in a nature reserve, so in terms of impact, it kind of doubles,” he said. “You have to be careful in these areas, not to mention launching new gas platforms.”

Karsten Mühlenmeier, president of the German North Sea permitting regulator, said that “the territorial sea is a sensitive area where quiet use should be prioritized over mining and private interests,” especially given the need to reduce demand for fossil fuel. However, he gave his consent when the Netherlands signed the agreement and when the political wind in Berlin changed.

A gas field is being considered off Schiermonnikoog Island.  Scientists oppose the development because of the risk it could pose to the park's ecosystems.

“Russia’s aggressive war against Ukraine has proven that securing energy supply is a difficult task that outweighs certain security measures, especially environmental concerns,” Muhlenmeier told CNN Business.

Greenpeace has sued the UK government for endorsing Galka, stating that her environmental assessment of the project was flawed because she did not investigate emissions from burning natural gas.

“It is completely irrational for the government to approve – and heavily subsidize – a project like Jackdaw that does nothing to solve the energy price crisis but contributes to climate change,” said climate campaigner Lauren McDonald. “Our dependence on fossil fuels is at the heart of both crises, yet the government continues to try to push new oil and gas projects.”

— Reportage by Rosanne Rubik and Anna Kuban.