March 2023, Vol. 250, No. 3

Global News

Global News - March 2023

Nord Stream Explosions Linked to Pro-Ukrainian Saboteurs  

U.S. intelligence reports suggest a pro-Ukrainian group likely made up of Ukrainian or Russian nationals was responsible for explosions that damaged the subsea Nord Stream pipelines last year, the New York Times reported in early March. 

The newspaper said there was no evidence that Ukrainian government or military officials were behind the Baltic Sea explosions. White House spokesperson John Kirby told reporters that Washington was waiting for ongoing investigations in Germany, Sweden and Denmark to conclude. 

A senior aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiyy, Mykhailo Podolyak, said that Kyiv was “absolutely not involved” in the blasts and has no information about what happened. The United States and NATO have called the attacks on the pipelines last September “an act of sabotage,” while Moscow has blamed the West. Neither side has provided evidence. 

German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius warned against reaching premature conclusions about the explosions, suggesting the attack could also have been a Russian “false flag” operation to blame Ukraine. 

Russia’s Gazprom built the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines to transport natural gas to Germany under the Baltic Sea, but they were not operating when the explosions destroyed three of the four pipelines. 

US Projects Record Natural Gas Output, Falling Demand  

U.S. natural gas production will rise to a record high in 2023 while demand will fall, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) projected in a March update to its Short-Term Energy Outlook. 

The statistical arm of the U.S. Department of Energy projected dry gas production would rise to 100.67 Bcf/d in 2023 and 101.69 Bcf/d in 2024 from a record 98.09 Bcf/d in 2022. 

The EIA also projected domestic gas consumption would fall to 86.4 Bcf/d in 2023 and 86.06 Bcf/d in 2024 from a record 88.54 Bcf/d in 2022. 

If correct, 2024 would be the first time since 2015 that output has risen four years in a row. It would also be the first time demand declined two years in a row since 2006. 

The EIA projected gas consumption would average 99 Bcf/d in the first quarter of 2023, the least for any first quarter since 2018. That is because the weather in January and February was among the warmest on record, the EIA said, keeping demand for gas for heating low. 

US  Power Plant Emissions Fell on Switch from Coal to Gas 

U.S. power plant emissions of pollutants that harm human health and warm the planet fell last year as the industry continued a switch from coal to natural gas, the Environmental Protection Agency said. 

The reductions occurred despite a 2% rise last year in electricity demand in the lower 48 U.S. states, mostly due to the transition off coal, the fossil fuel that releases large amounts of pollution when burned. 

The EPA said emissions of smog components nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide last year dropped 4% and 10%, respectively, compared with 2021. Emissions of mercury, a neurotoxin which can accumulate in the environment and make some kinds of fish unsafe to eat frequently, fell 3%. 

Emissions from power plants of the main greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, fell 1% compared with 2021, the EPA said. 

Petronas Aims to Complete Malaysia LNG Investigation by Mid-Year 

Malaysia's state energy company Petroliam Nasional Berhad, or Petronas, aims to complete an investigation into disruption of Malaysia LNG gas supply by the middle of the year, CEO Tengku Taufik said. 

The company has declared force majeure on gas supply to one of its liquefaction terminals, Malaysia LNG Dua, after a pipeline leak caused by soil movement at the Sabah-Sarawak pipeline on Sept. 21. 

“We expect to complete our investigation in the first half (of this year),” Taufik said, adding that the company does not know what recommendations will be made or the impact on efforts to resume normal operations. 

The disruption fueled fears of a supply shortage as Japan and many European countries scramble to secure gas supplies in the face of a possible total halt to gas from Russia in response to sanctions over its invasion of Ukraine. 

Explosion on Shell-Owned Nigerian Pipeline Kills 12 

An explosion on a Nigerian oil pipeline owned by Shell killed at least 12 people in early March in the community of Emohua, authorities at the scene said 

A spokesperson for Shell Petroleum Development (SPD) company of Nigeria Limited said a fire occurred on its Rumuekpe-Nkpoku Trunk Line in Rivers State and that it worked with authorities to put it out. 

Oil theft and pipeline sabotage are common in the southern oil production heartland of Nigeria. The methods used to steal oil often result in accidents that cause fires. In April last year, a similar disaster killed 100 people. 

Shell said an investigation by a government-led joint team would investigate the cause of the incident. 

Court Dismisses Uganda Pipeline Suit Against TotalEnergies 

A French civil court has ruled that a lawsuit brought by campaigners against energy major TotalEnergies over its oil projects in Uganda and Tanzania was inadmissible. 

Under the case filed in 2019, six French and Ugandan activist groups had accused the company of not doing all it could to protect people and the environment from the Tilenga oil development and the $3.5 billion East African Crude Oil Pipeline. 

The campaigners wanted the court to order TotalEnergies to halt the east African projects, basing their case on a 2017 French law that requires companies to identify human rights and environmental risks in their global operations and supply chains, and to take measures to prevent them. 

The Paris civil court dismissed the request, saying that only a judge examining the case more in depth could assess whether the accusations against TotalEnergies were founded, and to then proceed to an audit of operations on the ground. 

Cheniere Begins Permit Process for Sabine Pass Expansion 

Cheniere Energy has initiated an expansion permit process of LNG export capacity at its key Sabine Pass plant in Louisiana after the exporter topped revenue estimate on strong demand following Russia's invasion of Ukraine. 

The Sabine Pass stage 5 plant is being designed for an LNG production capacity of about 20 mtpa. 

Cheniere, the largest U.S. LNG exporter, said the company and its units have started the pre-filing review process with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission under the National Environmental Policy Act. 

Demand for U.S. LNG soared last year as Europe required vast amounts of gas to reduce its reliance on Russia imports, which used to make up nearly 40% of its supplies, following the restrictions on the country due to the Ukraine war. 

In 2022, U.S. exports of natural gas as LNG rose 8% to 10.6 Bcf/d, just shy of Australia's 10.7 Bcf/d. The United States remained ahead of Qatar, which in the third place had shipped 10.5 Bcf/d, according to data provider Refinitiv. 

Those exports were key to helping Europe rebuild its gas stockpiles after Russia's invasion disrupted supplies. U.S. supplies will be more important this year with Russian deliveries to Europe largely cut. 

Italian Court Delays Decision on Tuscan LNG Terminal to July 

An Italian administrative court has postponed until July 5 a decision on a complaint against a new LNG terminal being set up in the Tuscan port of Piombino. 

Italian gas grid operator Snam, which oversees the project, said the works on the terminal would continue as planned. The group has been working to have the floating terminal up and running by April to import LNG due to arrive from Africa. 

The 5 Bcm/a floating storage and regasification unit (FSRU) dubbed Golar Tundra has already left port in Singapore. There are currently three LNG terminals with a total capacity of nearly 17 Bcm/a in Italy. 

The Piombino administration, led by mayor Francesco Ferrari, last year filed a legal challenge against the project, citing safety concerns for the local population and maritime traffic. 

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