East Siberia Gas Infrastructure Development to Start at Wrong End

East Siberia Gas Infrastructure Development to Start at Wrong End

Photo: https://zarplatto.ru/

The Baikal region, Krasnoyarsk territory, Buryatia, and Transbaikal have been included in the pilot project to bring natural gas to populated areas where locals won’t have to pay for the construction of inter-settlement gas pipelines. Meanwhile, the above regions are not listed in the general plan of gas supply.

For many Russians, natural gas is truly a “pipe dream.” It is easy to use, cheap, and, importantly, environmentally friendly. But as people watch the news about next gas export projects similar to Nord Stream they wonder why Russian gas is supplied to anyone but Russians. Gas penetration rates are good enough in the European part of the country, the Urals and Western Siberia which still rely on Soviet-era infrastructure. Elsewhere, the situation is worse, with many other problems around.

Meanwhile, there are presidential instructions to step up gas infrastructure development, a Road Map of the Russian Ministry of Energy and other important documents.

Earlier, Gazprom said that the construction of the main gas pipeline was only half of the work. It has to be networked with towns and villages. The larger the area, the higher the costs. At the end of May, the Ministry of Energy said that it would set up regional operators who have to build distribution networks and solve the "last mile" problem. Customers will only have to pay for the pipe within the boundaries of their land plot. The price is quite affordable.

"The unified gas operator will help resolve the issue of financing and building gas pipelines to the borders of households. Accordingly, the operator will be responsible for the funding. There is an ongoing discussion about the sources of funding," Russian Energy Minister Nikolai Shulginov said. Sergei Gustov, head of Gazprom Mezhregiongaz, said that the whole program was worth about 1 trln rubles ($13.62 bln.) Trunk pipelines will cost 526 bln rubles ($7.16 bln.) Another 354 bln rubles ($4.82 bln) are needed for distribution networks.

The Russian government has chosen 15 regions to participate in the pilot programme. Regional operators will be set up in the Amur, Arkhangelsk, Irkutsk, Kurgan, Moscow, Murmansk, Pskov, Tyumen, and Chelyabinsk regions, in the Transbaikal, Krasnoyarsk, Perm, and Primorsky territories, and also in the Republics of Dagestan and Buryatia.

This news made people happy in some areas, but in East Siberia, it caused bewilderment. The map of gas supply networks extension for 2021-2025 shows that the networks terminate at the border of Kuzbass and the Krasnoyarsk territory. They are not found on the map. The other missing provinces are the Irkutsk region, Buryatia and Transbaikalia, as well as the republics of Khakassia and Tuva that are not even included in the pilot project. Gazprom certainly has no plans to build anything there in the next few years. No inter-settlement pipelines will be laid. So, the East Siberian regions get a big fat nothing.

The regional authorities hold routine talks with Gazprom. Last year, Krasnoyarsk governor Alexander Uss announced a breakthrough as he made reassuring statements that the Power of Siberia-2 pipe would be laid a few dozen kilometers from Krasnoyarsk. Then Gazprom published a map of gas pipeline from which Siberia was missing. It didn’t even bother to offer any explanations. Gazprom’s relations with other regions are pretty much the same.

The situation in the Baikal region is a little more optimistic as the authorities at least have ideas for liquefied natural gas (LNG.) "As for small-scale projects, Yakutia, the Amur region, Murmansk region, Karelia, Leningrad and Pskov regions, and Tomsk, Kemerovo and Irkutsk regions are among the most promising regions for the development of autonomous LNG services," Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said in late March.

In an interview with wek.ru, experts could not explain why the regions where no gas main will be built would consider the pilot construction of inter-settlement networks.

"Probably, the documentation is faulty," one of them said.

Gazprom has shown its real attitude to Russian residents time and again. “Perhaps, the authors of the documents have confused the Krasnoyarsk and Krasnodar territories as they often do," said another expert.

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