All those streams of natural gas

Well, I think I have more or less managed to sort out the "streams"–that is, the pipelines by which Gazprom provides Europe with natural gas. The first Russian pipeline, built quite a few years ago, was the Friendship Pipeline. That line went through Kursk, continued through Ukraine just south of Kiev, and reached Uzhgorod at the Ukrainian-Slovak border. After going through Slovakia it reached Vienna and points farther west. Hungary received its gas from this main pipeline via a branch line from the Slovak-Ukrainian-Hungarian border. The Friendship pipeline delivers about 160-180 billion m³ gas to Europe. Another existing pipeline goes through the Baltic states and Belarus to Poland and from there on to Berlin and beyond. That pipeline delivers about 50 billion m³ of natural gas–obviously not enough for Northern Europe. So a new pipeline is planned called the Northern Stream which will reach Germany directly from Russia under the Baltic Sea with a capacity of 60 billion m³. A relatively new pipeline is the Blue Stream which has already reached Turkey under the Black Sea. The Southern Stream will begin at Tuapse in Southern Russia, will also cross the Black Sea, this time going to Bulgaria. From Bulgaria one branch will go northward to Romania, Hungary, and Austria while the other will continue through Greece to southern Italy under the narrow passage under the Strait of Otranto (Adriatic Sea). This pipeline will be able to deliver 30 billion m³ of natural gas. However, all these billions of cubic meters are still not enough to supply Europe: an additional 40-50 m³ are needed.

All the pipelines described above originate in Russia, leaving Europe at the mercy of Russia’s possible economic and political pressure. Therefore a number of European oil-gas companies (including the Hungarian MOL) got together to promote a new pipeline called Nabucco that would bypass Russia and would bring natural gas to Europe from Middle Eastern and Central Asian countries: Iran, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Syria. This pipeline would reach Turkey from Azerbaijan through the Caspian Sea and from Turkey it would go through Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Austria to northern Italy. The European Union and the United States, for obvious reasons, prefer this solution. However, the problem with the Nabucco project is that neither the financing nor the availability of natural gas is secured at the moment.

A few months ago the Hungarian government got into some trouble with the European Union and the United States by appearing to prefer the Blue/Southern Stream over Nabucco. Although MOL has been negotiating with Gazprom concerning the the Southern Stream, Hungary was the last country to sign a contract. All the other countries, including Italy and Austria, had made agreements with the Russians. Hungary was the last link. So yesterday the agreement was signed in Moscow. Mind you, there was about a two-hour delay because in the last moment Putin came up with a surprise demand: the Hungarian government should guarantee the whole project financially. Gyurcsány refused, and it seems that he won. According to the agreement a joint company was formed with equal Russian and Hungarian participation that would be responsible for building the Hungarian section of the pipeline. In addition, this company will construct storage facilities.

Meanwhile Gyurcsány and the experts claim that Hungary is still supporting the Nabucco project which is also supposed to go through the territory of Hungary because they feel that it would be better to rely on two sources than on one. The opposition of course is not happy: Orbán claims that the Hungarian government committed a coup d’état against the Hungarian people by not consulting with them concerning the construction of this pipeline.