RECONFIGURED STRATEGY: Romania, at the crossroads of European energy routes

The geopolitical context influenced by the conflict that emerged between the Russian Federation and Ukraine will inevitably lead to rethinking Europe’s future energy strategies to shelter the Moscow’s whims. In this context, Romania should rethink its energy choices, especially if we take into account the experience of the last decade when Romanian officials have seen their dreams related to Nabucco shattered in the end.

One of our country’s chances to diversify energy options could come from the US, which want to strengthen their presence in Romania and become an important pillar in the current architecture of the energy infrastructure. The American plan, which provides funding as well, includes the construction of large gas tanks in the port of Constanta area, capable of supplying Europe for a longer period of time. The Americans’ idea is an old one, they launched since 2008 a project for construction of a terminal for liquefied natural gas (LNG) in the port of Constanta. Thus, in 2008, Romgaz and the US Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) signed an agreement for a grant of USD 1.061 million for funding the project’s feasibility study.

As similar to the current situation, the US was launching this proposal after another armed conflict, the one between Georgia and the Russian Federation. Turning back to the new strategy, the completion of this project is due in 2017 and it is to be filled with a gas pipeline linking Constanta Port to the West, allowing other countries in Western Europe as well to have access to sources of natural gas from Romania. Moreover, there are plans for a better connection between Romania and Turkey. An important role could be played by the submarine cable project that would connect Romania to Turkey, thus allowing the export of electric power. The project would be able to create new connections with Turkey, a NATO member and strategic ally of the US, not to overlook that it is a neighbour of Azerbaijan, a country which has become the new “El Dorado” of natural gas. In order to achieve this new infrastructure, the American allies want their investments to be protected from corruption in Romania - the crusade against corruption triggered by DNA comes after years when it preferred to play a rather neutral spectator role - can be read and in this key. President Barack Obama bluntly expressed the US interest to export natural gas to Europe in order to isolate Russia. The US can export to Europe liquefied natural gas (LNG), the Americans have 16 LNG terminals, one of which has already received approval in this regard, while others are on the way to get it. Across Europe there are also receiving terminals, these being built in the UK, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece, Holland, Belgium and Turkey. Romania doesn’t have such a terminal, but is involved in several projects. We remind here the older AGRI project, for which late last year the feasibility study has been completed.

We can also talk about the newer project, which is part of a European master plan. The future terminal is part of the European strategy for the funding of LNG master plan - the Rhine-Main-Danube axis. The project is developed by an international consortium consisting of 33 participants, having as coordinator the Rotterdam Port Administration for the Rhine-Main area and Danube Pro International, Austria, for the Danube area. Another project to be discussed could be the one launched last year by the Greek gas company DEPA, which plans to build, together with Bulgaria and Romania, a floating LNG terminal with a capacity of 5 million cubic meters per year.

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March 2015

June 2017