Which European countries would be hardest hit by a Russian gas embargo?

Guy Bentley
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The Institute of Energy Economics examines the effect of a Russian gas embargo (Source: Getty)

With relations between Europe and Russia at their worst point since the fall of the Berlin wall, the Institute of Energy Economics (EWI) has taken it upon itself to examine what would happen to various European nations if Russia imposed a gas export embargo in November 2014.

The good news for the UK is that even with a nine-month embargo Britain would still have a secure supply of gas thanks to possessing reasonable amounts of its own reserves.

However, the study also looked at what happen in the event of a week long cold snap during a six-month embargo. Under this scenario, the UK would suffer along with "almost the entirety of Europe".

The country that would have most to lose from an embargo would be Finland, according to the study. Finland would be hit hard by a cut-off of Russian gas after only one month since all of its gas comes from Russia. Shortages could reach up to 10 per cent in the first month and more than 50 per cent after three months.

The other countries which would suffer significantly from a three-month embargo would be Poland, with a shortfall of 1.3bn cubic metres (bcm) while Turkey would be hit even harder with the loss of 3.8 bcm.

Should an embargo run to six months the picture turns a lot bleaker. "A Russian gas export embargo during the winter of 2014/15 lasting for more than six months would cause supply shortfalls in many European countries, in particular, in central and eastern Europe, including Germany," the EWI said. Shortfalls would start to occur in Germany, and a host of Eastern European countries but France and Italy would still be able to secure gas supplies.

To secure an adequate amount of Europe would have to buy up significant levels of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from international markets, with prices needing to rise sharply. Germany would certainly benefit from rising LNG imports in this scenario despite having no LNG terminal itself.

The EWI estimate that it would take 45 bcm to stabilise European supplies for up to five months, and 65 bcm needed for seven months. Unfortunately for Poland and Turkey, rising LNG supplies will provide them with little benefit.

While the scenario of a gas embargo looks bad for European nations, one of Russia's key companies would take a hammering if the Kremlin decided to punish Europe for its stance over the Ukraine crisis.

The state-owned Russian energy giant Gazprom would suffer to the tune of €4-4.5bn (£3.2-3.6bn) or 3.5 percentage points of the company's revenue.

Looking to the mid to long term, the report concludes that Europe's vulnerability to Russian embargo may be reduced by capturing a bigger share of the world's LNG trade. Meanwhile, Russia's relationship with China may offer the alternative opportunities for Gazprom. Whether these will be as profitable as the European trade remains an open question.

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