EU working group ‘to coordinate expansion of gas supply infrastructure’

Out-Law News | 11 Dec 2014 | 4:52 pm | 1 min. read

The European Commission said it is to form a "high-level working group" to coordinate proposals for expanding the EU’s gas supply infrastructure , including cross-border projects to diversify gas supplies.

The Commission said the move follows concerns that Russia is scrapping the South Stream gas supply project, a 930-kilometre pipeline running from Russia under the Black Sea through to Italy, linking several European countries en route.

EU countries have asked the Commission’s vice-president for energy union Maros Sefcovic to “clarify” the situation concerning the South Stream project. Meanwhile, the Commission said all EU countries had agreed that the EU “must remain strongly committed to integrating central and south-eastern European gas markets and diversifying gas suppliers, sources and routes”.

One of the working group’s first tasks should be to “develop an action plan for integrating central and south-eastern European gas markets and interconnections”, the Commission said. “It is crucial to swiftly complete projects already under way and speed-up development of projects of common interest identified as being of strategic importance.”

Plans to set up the working group were approved during talks on 9 December between Sefcovic and ministers and representatives of the governments of Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Italy, Romania and Slovenia.

“The integration of gas markets and the diversification of gas supplies will require putting in place the necessary infrastructure and implementing harmonised rules for the benefit of customers in that region,” the Commission said. “Key regional projects” will include the development of liquefied natural gas terminals and corresponding pipeline systems, connections to the Southern Gas Corridor, or the development of eastern Mediterranean and Black Sea offshore gas reserves, the Commission said.

According to figures released by the Commission, the EU imports 53% of the energy it consumes, at a cost of more than €1 billion a day. Almost 90% of crude oil is imported and 66% of natural gas comes from sources outside the EU, the Commission said. Russia was the source of 33% of the EU's oil imports and 42% of its natural gas imports in 2013.

A report published earlier this year (16-page / 160 KB PDF) said more investment in Europe’s energy infrastructure was needed, particularly to end “gas market isolation” in the Baltic states and connect electricity grids across the continent.