Russia Shows Its Growing Sway Over Global Energy Markets

MOSCOW—The pure fuel scarcity that drove prices to records in Europe has uncovered Russia’s rising leverage over world vitality markets, with Moscow now enjoying a key function in all the things from OPEC negotiations to coal exports to China.

Russia, the world’s largest exporter of fuel and the supply of more than a third of Europe’s gas, has emerged as a vital provider with the facility to rapidly alleviate the continent’s fuel deficit.

Western officers accuse the Kremlin of making an attempt to attain geopolitical factors by withholding additional provides, a cost Moscow denies. Moscow as a substitute says it’s the troubleshooter in unstable world vitality markets. It denies it’s exploiting its enormous vitality reserves for political acquire.

Moscow’s leverage was on show final week when fuel costs dropped all of a sudden following feedback by President

Vladimir Putin

that Russia would help stabilize the energy market.

On Wednesday, Mr. Putin stated that Russia was prepared to debate with Europe steps to ramp up fuel exports and blamed the fuel crunch on an absence of reserves and long-term planning.

“As for the usage of vitality as some sort of weapon, that is precisely what will be referred to as politically motivated blather, which has no substance in any respect,” Mr. Putin stated at an vitality discussion board in Moscow.

Within the oil market, Russia has in recent times elevated its affect over the Group of the Petroleum Exporting International locations, regardless of not being a proper member. In Asia, Moscow has grow to be a major vitality participant, beginning fuel exports to China in 2019 and growing coal deliveries there this yr. Coal performs a significant function in powering the Chinese language economic system.

Russian President Vladimir Putin at a gathering on the event of the Russian vitality business on Oct. 6.


Alexei Druzhinin/Kremlin Pool/Reuters

“The European fuel disaster has proven the acute leverage that Russia has over Europe and past,” stated Thierry Bros, an vitality professional and professor at Sciences Po Paris. “Putin is the one one who may forestall blackouts in Europe as a result of Russia has spare capability. This can be a place of energy.”

European international locations akin to Germany have stated that Russia is fulfilling its long-term contracts. Nevertheless, European officers say Russia is intentionally withholding fuel from the short-term spot market and lawmakers referred to as for a probe into Russia’s manipulating the market.

The Worldwide Power Company stated final month that “Russia could do more to increase gas availability to Europe and guarantee storage is crammed to satisfactory ranges in preparation for the approaching winter heating season.”

On Wednesday, Mr. Putin stated that Europe mistakenly banked on “the invisible hand” of the spot market, which boosted costs additional. Moscow has urged Europe to maneuver towards extra long-term contracts.

“Nothing will be delivered past the [existing] contracts,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov stated Wednesday. Any additional deliveries are “a matter of negotiating.”

Russia’s increasing vitality affect offers the Kremlin essential geopolitical leverage amid worsening relations with the West and a option to problem Washington’s clout. It additionally offers Moscow with an essential income to handle stagnating dwelling circumstances at dwelling.

Russia has dominated fuel provides to Europe since Soviet instances, when it constructed a pipeline to the West, however its grip on that market has elevated in recent times because it opened routes to China and began liquefied pure fuel exports. Whereas the U.S. has ramped up its personal exports in recent times, LNG cargoes touring by ship from the Gulf Coast and elsewhere typically can’t compete on value with cheaper Russian pipeline fuel.

Moscow has a 25% share of worldwide fuel exports, in line with


PLC’s annual statistical report, and controls 13.3% of worldwide oil manufacturing, together with condensates, in contrast with 12.3% for Saudi Arabia.

“Russia is a superstore in terms of vitality,” stated Helima Croft, head of worldwide commodity technique at RBC Capital Markets.

The surge in European fuel costs has shut down factories and left authorities officers scrambling to forestall rising vitality payments earlier than the area’s winter. The European Fee is setting out this week a sequence of measures it believes nationwide governments can take to alleviate the value will increase, from tax cuts to cost targets for low-income households.

Whereas the fuel crunch has been brought on by a wide range of elements, together with low stockpiles, falling European manufacturing and rising Asian demand, Moscow’s reluctance to guide massive extra flows has exacerbated the deficit. European officers say Moscow is utilizing that to strain regulators into approving Nord Stream 2, a controversial gas pipeline to Germany that’s near launching.

The pipeline would permit Moscow to bypass Ukraine and Poland, whose governments are vital of the Kremlin. Russian vitality minister

Alexander Novak

stated final week that approval of the pipeline would assist resolve the disaster. Moscow denies it’s utilizing the fuel scarcity to strain regulators to approve Nord Stream 2.

“Russia has an infinite fuel useful resource and proximity, and but has not delivered pure fuel as one would moderately count on them to,” stated Frank Fannon, who was assistant secretary of state for vitality assets beneath the Trump administration. Western governments ought to “deny the Kremlin the flexibility to make use of fuel transit, nevertheless the route, as a geopolitical weapon.”

The Krasnogorsky open pit coal mine in Russia in July. Russia is supplying coal to China following Beijing’s ban on Australian imports.


Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg Information

Mr. Putin final week stated that Russia’s vitality exports to Europe may attain a report this yr.

However whereas analysts agree that Russia is observing the contracts, it hasn’t but used its enormous spare capability to ship extra fuel westward.

“There’s a number of schadenfreude in Moscow,” stated Alexander Gabuev, senior fellow on the Carnegie Moscow Middle. “The temper right here is that we did all the things in our energy to produce what we promised to produce, and as for the remainder, it’s an enormous center finger.”

Russia can also be having fun with newfound clout in oil markets, each as a high exporter and because the kingpin in a world oil-producers alliance.

In 2016, Mr. Putin struck an alliance with OPEC that helped reverse an oil value crash by agreeing to cuts. However Russia has additionally repeatedly vetoed proposals by OPEC chief Saudi Arabia. In 2020, Moscow’s refusal to endorse manufacturing cuts proposed by the Saudis amid the Covid-19 pandemic triggered a price war that led U.S. oil benchmarks to show detrimental for the primary time in historical past.

Extra just lately, when Saudi Arabia predicted the present fuel disaster would result in a lift in oil demand of 500,000 barrels a day, Russia stated the group’s plans for a gradual enhance in manufacturing needn’t be modified. Moscow’s place prevailed at an OPEC assembly final week, which determined to keep easing production cuts slowly.

In Europe, Moscow controls 53% of the oil market in contrast with 16% for Riyadh, in line with BP.

Moscow can also be stealing market share from the U.S. Russia’s oil manufacturing is ready to rise by 1 million barrels a day subsequent yr, in contrast with 780,000 barrels a day for the U.S., in line with a confidential inside OPEC report.

In Asia, Russia is making up for coal shortages in China, following a ban on Australian imports of coal by Beijing. It’s also planning a second fuel pipeline to China, following a $55 billion fuel pipeline that started exporting there in 2019.

“Russia’s function as an vitality superpower is all of a sudden very clear,” stated

Daniel Yergin,

vice chairman of consulting agency

IHS Markit.

Write to Georgi Kantchev at [email protected] and Benoit Faucon at [email protected]

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