Saturday, 15 October 2022 — The Saker Blog
by Jorge Vilches for the Saker blog
the LNG click-bait
The sitting US Secretary of State very recently declared in an official press conference that the NS1 and NS2 pipeline sabotage will have “no impact on European energy resilience”…
We should assume that Secretary Antony Blinken was referring to the timely supply of US LNG substitute equivalent to pipeline nat-gas now theoretically available (not) which would save the European day. With a clear smile, Blinken considered it to be a “tremendous opportunity” for the US to help Europe wean off of Russian energy… with the USA ready to be “the leading supplier (of dirty fracked seaborne LNG) to Europe”. And all of it despite the great ripoff “mondepreise” moon-high prices charged by US vendors according to the German Minister of Economics Robert Habeck who is now sorrowfully surprised by the very market dynamics that he actively contributed to establish.
the oh-lá-lá connection
The French Minister of the Economy, Finance and Industrial Sovereignty – namely Bruno Le Maire, well known as President´s Emmanuel Macron 4×4 all-terrain strong-man — went a bit further by warning that the US should not be allowed to dominate the global energy market while the EU just suffers from the consequences of the conflict in Ukraine. “The conflict in Ukraine must not end in American economic domination and a weakening of the EU” said the French Minister at the National Assembly. Le Maire hastened to add that it’s unacceptable for Washington “to sell us its liquefied natural gas at four times the price that it sets for itself” also explaining that “the economic weakening of Europe is not in anyone’s interest”. Frequently donning a dark-colored turtle neck, his tone and attitude corresponded to an ecclesiastical authority announcing a yet unknown truth taken from the Book of Revelations ready to be applied to the “Industrial Sovereignty” agenda of his Ministry.
Be that as it may, and as per the US State Dept. the NS1 and NS2 pipeline sabotage would supposedly have “no impact on European energy resilience”… then we should guess that Germans should just enjoy their Oktoberfest and — why not ? — also prepare to celebrate Christmas 2022 as if nothing negative had happened. On the contrary,
if technical brain-power (currently AWOL) prevailed, then career strategists both sides of the Atlantic would now be spending all day and night trying to brush up hard on nat-gas management 101, better yet with a touch of sophomoric physics if all possible. And thus no-nonsense contingency plans would already be prepared and under deployment.
The reason is, as explained below, by EU and German design and commitment this is a failing EXPERIMENT. The planned ´stored´ nat-gas & LNG supply strategies have never ever been applied in equivalent circumstances with this strange methodology and humongous scale. Thusly, the 2022 German Oktoberfest will probably turn into a very acid sauerkraut with solid-beer icicles bizarrely hanging from the spouts. The Main Event would still be the December 2022 ´Jinglemerkel Santakaputt´ with nowhere to hide as all of Europe would be undergoing a thorough DE-industrialization process with sharp lowering of standards of living, and in many areas most probably with food issues, darkness & cold, deep frustration and un-heard-of unemployment with massive migrants wishing they had stayed back home (yes)
Ref #1 https://www.state.gov/secretary-antony-j-blinken-and-canadian-foreign-minister-melanie-joly-at-a-joint-press-availability/
Ref #2 https://twitter.com/reuters/status/1574853885382037505
Ref #3 https://www.thelocal.de/20221005/german-minister-accuses-gas-supplying-countries-of-ripoff-prices/
Ref #4 https://www.rt.com/business/564457-us-seeks-economic-domination-eu/
´molecules of illusion´
Be it from Qatar, Norway, or the US… or Russia…Liquefied Natural Gas cannot and will not save the day for Europe. First of all, LNG is and will be for a huge long time to come very scarce worldwide. Furthermore, there are very few loading and unloading terminals available at either end. For example, Germany has 0 (zero) LNG terminals. None. And even some loading terminals at source docks that are already built have serious operational problems or simply do not meet EU standards. Besides, there are not anywhere near enough LNG tankers available and very few are under construction. Who needed ugly dirty fracked LNG only 6 months ago ? And these infrastructure beasts take very long time to be conceived, approved, designed, funded, built, commissioned, certified, and offered to the market.
But it gets worse because many wrongly imagine that fracked sea-borne Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) is a substitute of nat-gas (not). First, it´s terribly more expensive, most explosive & dangerous to handle, and definetly way too scarce to meet European needs. Environmentally, LNG is “fracking” dirty and very cumbersome to liquefy, load and re-gassify with yet non-existant infrastructure at both ends… and is far more difficult to store and many times more costly to freight (Suez could be a limitation) from ackward overseas sources yet unknown (in tankers that do not yet exist) and only in risky seaborne batches onto many dozens of delivery terminals not yet built nor adequately planned for…
Let´s delve further in depth regarding the LNG illusion while sharing the always knowledgeable and helpful comments from the S Kovacs summarized posts (in italics below) based on 30-years of first-hand operational experience.
the LNG cryogenic conundrum
- There is an extreme shortage of LNG tankers, so who would build them, per what specs and costs, by when?
- There are is an extreme shortage of LNG terminals at both ends. Europe is extremely bureaucratic, so it will require many years to have a single LNG terminal ready and running if not vetoed by the local council. Meanwhile, a pipeline must be connected from the terminal to the existing grid… with further complications at every level which take TIME. What capacity should these terminals have vis-á-vis the related new distribution pipelines? Nobody can know that today thus adding even more load to timing and technical demands.
- Transit times on the tankers change and existing EU southern pipelines are probably at full capacity already.
- Tankers are far more costly to operate as liquefied gas has to be kept liquefied re power-hungry refrigeration.
- Tankers have a more costly service life than all other bulk tankers, due to the regulation/inspection/cryogenic requirements which also take TIME. So therefore they are a higher risk with higher cost per cubic meter of gas transported vs. cheap, reliable, safe, environmentally friendlier pipelines to which Europe is used to.
- Europe needs dozens of new LNG terminals.The pre-feasibility and feasibility studies have not yet been planned for, let alone detailed engineering, plans & specs, manpower, contracting of engineering expertise,etc
- LNG terminal sites have to be carefully chosen, their expensive and cumbersome environmental impact assessments completed (which can take years) with engineering design that by itself can also take years with no room for direct carbon copy of other designs, plus ground preparation construction which would take 1-2 years + manufacturing of plant and modules (usually in Korea and China, but would they now agree ? ) all of which need contracts, schedules, materials, etc, lots of TIME and shipping + certification & commissioning.
- Funding: all LNG terminals are owned/built/operated by consortiums of gigantic multinational companies, not governments. They cost 10’s of billions to design and build, which need to be borrowed from banks. The borrower must prove that it has a solid plan with guarantees in place to repay the loan with interest. The owner/operator of the terminal has all sorts of other very important liabilities. This is a no nonsense business.
So it seems that European leadership is unexplainably calm after both NS1 & NS2 have been blown up and now relying on timely LNG supplies (not) and /or European nat-gas “stored reserves”…(double not)
use-LESS European supposedly stored nat-gas ´reserves´ (not)
Europeans know bloody well a rough winter is coming, but no one has warned them that the supposed 90% “reserves” that would sorta get them through okay will not be available as announced. There are 2 main reasons for this which were already explained to boring death and intricate depth at Ref #5 https://thesaker.is/the-euthanized-european-nat-gas-reserves/
The first reason #1 is the impossibility of constant RE-pressurization of such “stored” nat-gas reserves in order to maintain the required sub-surface driving force push to produce it onto surface. Now, along broad areas of Germany and Northern Europe the lack of pipeline nat-gas flow will not allow to comply this requirement. Without pipeline nat-gas, at the very best only 25% to 30% of the “supposed” 90% reserves could possibly ever be timely recovered and only very slowly through a period of time stretched out in months. The culprit is the mandatory DE-pressurization whenever such underground reserves are produced onto surface (plus sub-surface losses) with the consequent geometrical drawdown of pressure. With a decreasing sub-surface pressure as driving force, ever smaller and slower nat-gas volumes can be produced onto surface or even none at all per circumstances and operational requirements.
The second reason #2 is the current impossibility in many areas of now having the much required constant massive King Kong pipeline surface flow to adequately push along and warm up the underground reserves that could be produced onto surface by pressure differential when RE-pressurized enough and if all the other requirements are met. This has never ever been tried out by anyone before anywhere near at this scale and without prior notice as later explained. Now suffice to say that the impact will be enormously negative and that Europeans are not anywhere close to being aware of this. All they get to hear is that “our 90% stored nat-gas reserves will get us through this winter if we just save up consumption a bit ”. No they won´t and below it is proven with hard figures. Read my lips ugly “methane hydrates” nightmares will be the new name of the game and it will not be fun, trust me. More later, just bear with me.
high school physics
The problem starts when bureaucratic ignoramuses (politicians et al) dream up the stupid idea that nat-gas reserves can be used as a 100% substitute for nat-gas flowing feedstocks such as thru surface pipelines. They simply cannot, period. Actually, God invented nat-gas reserves as a supplement to – never a substitute of (NOT) – flowing nat-gas feedstocks so that in high demand season (winter) the cheaper nat-gas reserves piled up during the low consumption season (summer) could be added to the main pipeline flow by 10% approx. This would help to satisfy the higher winter demand and also to lower the average yearly cost. Nat-gas reserves are good for nothing more than that and definetly not a substitute of surface flowing feedstocks. No matter how hard they try or how frequently they model their brand new dark colored turtle necks, politicians both sides of the Atlantic will not change that, I promise. Nat-gas sub-surface reserves can never ever be adequately produced onto surface by themselves and can only be ´lightly´ and slowly ADDED onto pre-existing actively flowing surface feedstocks such as pipeline flows nothing more. Anything else is a dream ready to become a very ugly nightmare.
Something certainly widespread and that may be misleading — for which I am not responsible of — is using the term “storage” for such ´reserves´ as “storage” in a warehouse or closet. It is not anywhere near that. A better term would be “lung” but then we get the ambiguity derived from the organ that living beings breathe with. But at any rate such nat-gas reserves are not kept like you and I — and our wives — would keep dishes in a cupboard shelf. It´s not easy to explain it just with words, but still allow me to try. Water plays a role of course and that is why before injecting down to underground storage caverns the nat-gas MUST be thoroughly and intensively dehydrated as much as technically possible which is difficult to do and very expensive. Furthermore, during underground storage such nat-gas picks up even additional water content from subsurface structures which could be coped with (maybe, yet again it depends) if they had readily available a surface super King Kong flow — as later explained — to thermically cushion it and incorporate it into its MASSIVE mass. But then, by not having such driving force No. 2, means being able to produce such undergound stored nat-gas onto surface only with driving force No.1, namely pressure differential.
Then, with only No.1 driving force available to extract such underground nat-gas reserves… well (a) the consequent pressure drop taking place as the first nat-gas sub-surface “reserves” get to surface will mean that the process has to be very slow and (b) lots of nat-gas will be left behind underground because of gradual pressure drawdown will reduce and weaken the upward push required and (c) you better be VERY carefull with veeeery sloooow production (meaning not enough when most needed) because a sudden methane DE-compression will FREEZE up everything and also producing methane hydrates a well-known nightmare of operational engineers which would clog the pipeworks forever
Furthermore this has never ever been attempted (what for ?) and the variations of the different animals in the storage facilities “zoo” I describe below do not allow for any standardized procedure for simultaneous input from different sources also managed differently with no training, no coordination, nor awareness of the nature of the problem.
But it gets to be MUCH worse…
Any underground stored nat-gas that may possibly be recovered — not much, as we shall see right below — will be sold not to the local community of nearby consumers but rather to the wholesale market through the pipeworks grid described later in greater detail. So that if Germans living in, say, Frankfurt for whatever reason feel they´ll sorta be okay by having such and such large volume nat-gas storage facility close-by, well… they are freezing wrong because the nat-gas to be potentially produced from such large size Frankfurt storage will be very democratically distributed thru the grid (at market prices) and not thru a direct connection to nearby Frankfurt homes.
In 2021 Germany spent 100 bcm of nat-gas (approx.) with a maximum storage volume capacity of 24 bcm which German officials now say is filled up to 90% meaning that they have 22 bcm of nat-gas available throughout Germany. BTW, no specific distribution breakdown is ever given just total values for all of Germany which could eventually mean a very UN-even problematic distribution. Furthermore, saying and repeating that is fully misleading as you could have your car´s gas tank 90% filled but you would still require MANY gas tanks for you to get to destination. Be that as it may, total 2021 consumption from October to February in Germany was 52 bcm with an estimated breakdown of 26 bcm for the October, November and December period and an additional 13 bcm during January plus yet another 13 bcm for February. Total = 52 bcm. Now then, out of the 22 bcm supposedly already ´stored´ approximately a minimum 30% cannot ever be recovered (probably even more) so that means that only 15 bcm maximum are available to cover consumption only for the months of October and November… as by mid-December (Christmas comes to mind) even in the best scenario under current circumstances Germany would run out of available nat-gas, stop. Sorry it´s math.
Some EU countries such as Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Ireland, Lithuania, Luxembourg, and Slovenia have ZERO nat-gas storage capacity of their own and basically depend upon solidarity from other EU countries…
Ref #5 https://youtu.be/gplfrKT627k Ref #6 https://www.reuters.com/article/europe-gas-kemp-idAFL1N2Z81RA
Yet more on the use-LESS European nat-gas “reserves” (not)
In practice — per Yogi Berra – today´s underground European “stored” nat-gas reserves cannot be conveniently extracted from sub-surface. The reason is, that in order to achieve it, these ´reserves´ would need to
(1) be constantly RE-pressurized as briefly explained before, which now without NS1 and NS2 cannot ever be done through large parts of Germany and throughout Northern Europe with the consequent enormous impact this implies
(2) have abundant Russian pipeline nat-gas constantly flowing thus allowing to add-on such pressurized stored underground reserves to a comparatively far larger surface flow. This is the only possible practical way to extract underground nat-gas and also to distribute such buried reserves through the surface distribution system pipeworks.
By themselves, without the help of flowing pipeline nat-gas, such stored nat-gas reserves can hardly be produced onto surface and still with lots of negative impact. To attempt it would be an experiment never ever tried out before in the history of physics — or politics for that matter. “A bloody unnecessary experiment” Sir Isaac Newton would have mumbled in a low-tone whisper. Without a surface pipeline full of massively abundant flowing nat-gas (now absent) the supposed European “reserves” will mostly just end up sitting pretty underground as they are today, period.
Please also accept that trying to explain highly technical issues of what´s really going on to a very broad audience (politicians included) is not simple. It is most important, mind you, but not simple… Boredom is a constant risk which by the way I am running right now. Losing the audience altogether is a very real possibility. And that´s the reason why many times I repeat the same ideas with slightly different language (and angle of perspective) as best I can … and as technical considerations allow it. And that´s why I also try to make these articles naturally lively and colorfull so as to get your attention. Now if the audience were the API-SPE-ASTM-NACE-ASME-AAPG types I would of course explain stuff differently. But no Western technical venue would ever allow me to submit the thesis you all already know about as all of them (and I do mean ALL) just kow-tow the official line to move on with “nothing to see here”.
Constant RE-pressurization of subsurface stored nat-gas is required to maintain enough (large) volume and enough underground pressure as No.1 driving force to produce it onto surface. This is needed to compensate for the unavoidable and also constant DE-pressurization due to underground losses (thermal, friction, permeation, dissipation, fissures, cracks, porosity, etc.) and pressure drawdown (loss) produced every time that sub-surface reserves are brought onto surface. Without RE-pressurization, future required pressure would not be available and possible surface soil collapse or subsidence could lead to seismographic activity nobody wants such as with fracking. But furthermore this driving force No.1 also needs an active and fully operational surface pipeline to bring in nat-gas for re-injection of underground nat-gas reserves, namely driving force No.2. Besides, whenever the traditional surface pipeline inflow is interrupted or non-existant (such as today in Northern Germany and Northern Europe) storage nat-gas will also be depleted way earlier because it was not ever supposed to constitute the only winter load by itself… and as explained later no surface King Kong express bull-dozing effect would exist for surface pipeworks distribution.
So without nat-gas flowing through the NS1 and NS2 pipelines the extraction of the nat-gas supposedly “stored” (not) in European underground caverns or sub-surface deposits would be highly problematic or even impossible. The Saker commenter Catherine worded it out short & sweet…“ Germany says it has enough gas in storage to get through winter. Thanks for demolishing that statement – I had no idea an inflow was needed to make it a viable solution” Congratulations Catherine gal, I always look out for your valid down-to-earth comments such as “inflow is needed”.
Please conceive the NS nat-gas pipelines as huge 8-lane x 18-wheeler freight truck King Kong autobahns. Yes, differential pressure from the pressurized underground nat-gas does actually play a role, but better be very careful or you will end up freezing everything around you including the young field engineers and their sisters. So, per Catherine, additionally a King Kong pipeline “is needed” with a far larger nat-gas mass to also offer a required thermal stability cushion for the underground ´reserves´. So King Kong “pushes along” or displaces anything in its way incorporating the possible nat-gas that would be very slowly released-produced-extracted-bubbled up from underground European storage caverns as slightly aided by the pressure differential between stored depth and surface.
Accordingly… highly pressurized subsurface caverns by themselves will not work as expected unless a constant flow – even at low flow rates and pressures — is always maintained from the NS pipelines sources… thus pushing the stored nat-gas “out there” as required for distribution through surface grid pipeworks for this mix between (a) Siberian pipeline nat-gas plus (b) possible European underground stored nat-gas. So the latter (b) can only be added-on to a much larger flow-rate of the former (a) probably with a ratio below 10% as we shall later see. But the point is we do NEED the surface pipeline flow to incorporate, drag along and thermically stabilize the expanding sub-surface nat-gas.
the bulldozing King Kong Express (AWOL)
At any rate, the Russian pipeline is the “monster” which carries an overwhelming amount of nat-gas with sustained internal flow-rate thus performing as our “King Kong” bulldozer express. Accordingly, it rules with the overpowering momentum (or inertia Newton would say) of the massive amount – which also performs as a thermally stabilizing cushion — of nat-gas it naturally carries by design and always “pushing along” and incorporating everything it finds in its way…including the possible well-managed, small, non-freezing inflow from sub-surface storage deposits.
Now here comes an additional concept relating to comparative amounts of nat-gas from both the pipeline and the possible sub-surface storage deposits quantity, type, and capabilities of which we fully ignore but must assume are highly variable and heterogenous animals. Of course, the volume and mass of nat-gas that the surface pipeline brings along always has to be much larger than the possible inflow received from underground storages so as to “bull-doze” it along as King Kong would and thus thermally absorb it also. That is why the very first paragraph entitled “high school physics” stated that
“ The problem starts when ignorant fools dream up the idea that nat-gas reserves can be used as a 100% substitute for nat-gas flowing feedstocks. They simply cannot, period. Actually, God invented nat-gas reserves as a supplement to – not a substitute of – flowing nat-gas feedstocks so that in high demand season (winter) the cheaper nat-gas reserves piled up during low consumption season (summer) could be added to help satisfying winter´s high demand. Nat-gas reserves are good for nothing more than that and definetly not a substitute of flowing feedstocks”.
stored nat-gas %
You may now ask exactly what ratio should that proportion be ? Well we can´t know precisely although it surely varies but it does not really matter because (1) it´ll be set for whatever is needed (2) what matters is the very existence of this King Kong express having a massive bull-dozing and thermally stabilizing nat-gas cushion flow which would forcefully push along whatever it finds in its way thus adequately incorporating / adding the nat-gas inflow received from underground storage thru very very carefull pressure differential management to be explained later. Historically, European nat-gas storage percentages vary between 80% at the end of summer and 30% at the end of winter(approx) So we can infer that 50% of the stored volume spent during such 6-month period would require to – in average – to spend 8% per month x 6 months = 50% of the stored nat-gas (approx.). So that´d mean an average of 8% per month inflow of whatever volume each facility may have stored (unknown in absolute figures) during a 6-month period of far cheaper gas purchased and stored during low-demand season (summer). But by no means is ´stored´ nat-gas able to substitute for massive King Kong surface inflows without such it cannot be adequately surfaced in enough quantities just producing a generalized freeze-out to be explained later. Because underground stored nat-gas cannot suddenly and massively be surfaced onto an empty pipeline because the high differential pressure would expand the methane and freeze up rapidly plus it would be spent-up in a hurry with the consequent pressure drop, a very bad idea.
Europe, we have a problem
And the problem now for Europe is precisely that such pipelines NS1 and NS2 are not operational thus not allowing for anything of what has been described herein so far. For without such active King Kong pipelines almost unsolvable problems appear as later described. So once the Russian pipeline nat-gas flow stops dead,such European stored gas would not be conveniently displaced or “moved along” to elsewhere it may be needed, be it for home heating or power generation, or anything else. And if the push pressure applied to the sub-surface nat-gas were substituted by pressure exerted by any other gas or mixtures thereof (air or otherwise) the Russian pure nat-gas already stored would soon inter-mix and dilute beyond possible practical use as European installations, equipment and devices are contractually fine-tuned to be fed by pure Russian nat-gas, not anything else. Furthermore, mixing with air (oxygen) would be very risky and no one in his right mind would try that, trust me. Any other gas or mix thereof is impossible.
driving forces No.1 + No. 2
So two (2) driving forces are required to extract / produce the EU underground ´stored´ nat-gas. Both are needed. Driving force No.1 is sub-surface pressure so that the stored nat-gas is barely allowed to emerge to surface veeeeery slowly just timidly bubbling on to surface where it would meet and ride along with the King Kong express absorbed onto its thermally stable mass. This is known as pressure differential between the under-ground nat-gas and the King Kong flow on surface. If operators were careless enough to allow for a larger than required pressure differential all hell would break lose and we would have a very short-lived disaster with everything frozen. The reason is that nat-gas sudden and abundant expansion because of large pressure differentials means temperature drop – let alone in European mid-winter — to the point of forming one of the most feared problems in the business known as “methane hydrates” which would mean that everything breaks down seized bloody frozen. More on that later, including “solutions” found for Alaskan and Arctic reservoirs but NOT applicable to these European underground stored nat-gas facilities which are many different funny animals just put together, like in a zoo. There is no need to explain the danger of methane hydrates, just google it.
Now driving force No.2 is precisely the King Kong pipeline bull-dozing flow as already explained. What driving force No. 1 does is to get the nat-gas bubbling barely on to surface under the lowest possible pressure differential so as not to freeze everything up just “presenting” the nat-gas on surface for it to be “blown away” or “moved along” or “pushed along” or “displaced ” thru the surface pipeworks to final destination… or whichever wording suits everyone´s fancy (mission impossible, trust me). The soccer equivalent would be Neymar passing the ball on to Messi – at full speed and on the run of course — for the Argentine genius to score just by shoving the ball past the goalposts with his chest.
Alaska & Siberia & the Artic and beyond…
I can already hear the howling of experienced “experts” letting us all know that the freezing-up problems of a strong differential pressure between nat-gas stored underground and surface pipeline (even empty, as it would now come to be) are today perfectly solvable. If such were possible (not) then a strong Delta P — as engineers call it — would all by itself be enough of a driving force No.1 to solve such problem without King Kong and get the sub-surface nat-gas all along the surface pipeworks… Oh, yes, I agree such “freezing-up” problems are pretty much “solved” yes of course … but only in Alaska and Siberia or wherever you happen to have a small ocean of sub-surface nat-gas reservoirs which justifies the design, construction, investment, equipment and huge operational expenses and expertise for the injection of methanol, pipe heating, etc. etc. all of which are very expensive and difficult solutions to operate with.. But not repeat not in a comparatively very small size and highly atomized zoo of European underground nat-gas ´storage´ facilities all pretty much different (no carbon copy solution possible) from each other requiring specific variations and modifications as widely distributed throughout different environments which are already installed and running… which certainly do not allow for such expensive ´solution´. It´s impossible now to up-end and retro-fit each individual sub-surface storage facility everywhere in Europe whatever its size, location and type so that it may have the means to deal with the impact of such suddenly de-pressurized nat-gas and further evenly distribute it on surface pipeworks at precise and agreed constant and homogenous pressure and flow-rate without planned coordination amongst the different cross-border stakeholders. Not. Sourcing, logistics, just-in-time distribution and injection of humongous volumes of methanol without prior notice is an unfathomable project.
Furthermore, as if the above not were enough, a high differential pressure between undergound nat-gas and the surface would mean that the stored volume would be consumed / depleted / drawed down way too fast thus defeating the purpose of the whole concept and process. The experiment proposed was never ever foreseen by anyone decades ago including the original geologists, designers and engineering contractors… or current operators for that matter. Overabundant nat-gas inflow from Russia was always a “given” taken for granted.
the nat-gas zoo failing EXPERIMENT
So let´s summarize the nat-gas zoo experiment that has never-ever been needlessly thought of in the history of physics and nat-gas extraction and/or surface distribution management. Let alone as designed and proposed by EU politicians that obviously know jack about basic physics & chemistry and could not care less about its consequences.
But you will, trust me. Oh, BTW these are NOT naturally flowing wells nor sucker-rod pumped wells with surface mechanical “grasshoppers” sucking oil & gas out, nor bottom hole producing wells with Electro Submersible Pumps (ESP)… These also are not water-swept wells such as in secondary recovery with water injected from near-by wells pushing the oil & gas to the producing wells, etc etc etc. These are sub-surface artificially pressurized nat-gas storage deposits, completely different animals altogether.
tools and resources absent
+ NO Russian nat-gas pipeline inflow (zero) – NO King Kong express – plain EMPTY shut-down of Russian pipeline
+ ZERO possibility of the “move along” King Kong express effect. None. AWOL.
+ ZERO possibility of RE-pressurizing any/all sub-surface nat-gas deposits throughout Europe meaning that they will all DE-pressurize at unknown different variable rates both amongst different underground storage caverns and within such due to their enormous heterogeneity regarding type, size, and specific location within the surface network, etc.
exclusive driving force
+ Only current sub-surface pressures (whatever it happens to be, all different) as exclusive driving force to extract underground ´stored´ nat-gas from highly variable deposits (the zoo) meaning variable pressure differentials and flow rates requiring yet an additional layer of overall nat-gas production plus distribution & timing / scheduling management
+ highly heterogenous and variable cross-borders sub-surface deposits / caverns & reservoirs of different sizes, types and requirements hereinafter to be called “the unpredictable zoo” current and future pressures of which are fully unknown and can´t possible ever be known because of the heterogeneity variations amongst the zoo animals.
They are all different zoo animals in so many ways that no standardized solution is possible. All the zoo animals were commissioned at different times with different criteria and different designs, not ever inspected as surface structures would be, all of them found in different underground and soil conditions, no internal known lining, all with varying degrees of fissures, cracks, porosities and permebilities, etc etc.etc
All requiring different sub-surface pressure tests re fill-up, shut-in, and pressure drawdown values to control the possibility of a fracture or large enough crack which would seriously endanger everyone in a 10-mile radius (or more)
+ No specific breakdown available regarding what “supposed” % of nat-gas reserves held exactly by which sub-surface “animal“ and at what current and future sub-surface pressure which will necessarily decrease through time
+ temperature, flow-rate and pressure subsurface inflow variations all along the surface pipeworks grid depending upon the cooling effect allowed for each individual underground nat-gas deposit by each individual un-regulated cross-border operator
+ 85% average nat-gas storage fill-up throughout Europe at unknown pressure and variation profile until March 2023.
+ Not ever equivalent to an oil & gas well provided by wise Mother Earth under completely different conditions
no vacuum nor gas replacement
If nat-gas were substituted by any other gas or mixtures thereof (air or otherwise) the Russian pure nat-gas already stored would soon inter-mix and dilute beyond possible practical use as European installations and equipment are contractually fine-tuned for pure Russian nat-gas, not anything else. Pulling an extraction vacuum would not help or change anything as it would mean the same impact as the sub-surface pressure differential and would freeze up everything just the same and/or FUBAR the surface pipeworks distribution grid. Adding or “pushing” nat-gas with air or an air mix would be explosive.
The sub-surface storage and delivery of methane in enormously large quantities without having the traditional and foreseen huge Russian pipeline inflow is a spanking new and most probably unsuccessfull and dangerous experiment.
Question #1: Are all stakeholders AWARE of the above and have planned accordingly ? I don´t think so, do you ?
The abundant “iffy” explanations received ring many alarms for contingency planning. There is no crystal ball regarding what could happen, but for sure it will NOT be “normal” service everywhere for everybody all the time.
Today absolutely everybody throughout Europe is used to, requires and fully expects what we shall call “normal” everyday nat-gas supply service. BTW, there are other nat-gas sources for certain parts of Europe besides Russian pipelines which should function normally although at much higher prices than in the recent past. At least such exist today and are operated at 125% of capacity and may suffer from such abuse, of course. So here we referred only to the NS1 & NS2 pipeline nat-gas non-supply, an absolute requirement most specially for Germany & Northern Europe.
Question #2 : assuming that was explained herein is 100% wrong and everything just works out hunky-dory ? Once that the nat-gas storage is fully depleted throughout Northern Europe ( at best March 2023 ) what would happen then exactly ?
So whenever we hear about supposed European 90% nat-gas storage “reserves” please recall that such were conceived and recoverable by design, construction and operation only in addition to… and if and when… Russian pipeline nat-gas inflow were constantly maintained (not anymore) with at least a minimum inflow rate and pressure.
(3) have any of the experimental procedures described herein ever been followed before throughout Europe? (4) What positive experience is there available in facilities this large and so heterogenous and widespread with so much at stake and no time to plan and prepare ? (5) why would all of these procedures under the new unforeseen conditions not be considered to be truly experimental ? (6) would absolutely everybody in charge of European nat-gas storage facilities know about these problems in advance and proceed exactly as required by a PLAN without risking any experimentation and/or improvisation ?
sub-surface pressure management
Chances are that hurriedly over-pressurized sub-surface caverns and nat-gas reservoirs will crack or fracture.
There are serious sub-surface cavern pressure limitations to avoid the risk of fracturing… with bad consequences.
Not well-studied and inadequate soil mechanics on possibly un-consolidated formations were already discussed in the original article of Reference #5. Accidents will happen. So it´s a very tricky and potentially dangerous game to be played out with extreme care. Initially these sub-surface storage facilities may possibly be pressurized enough. But as winter comes on, the sub-surface pressures will decline and accordingly their production rate will also decline. So, by mid-winter, even if the quantity of gas remaining were apparently enough (50% ? ) the rate of production to surface would not meet the traditional demand. Storing and later extracting nat-gas in sub-surface deposits under very high pressure requires tons of specialized operation, maintenance expertise, and funding. Extraction and delivery is very slow. Higher speed delivery to satisfy peak demand can only be sustained momentarily and necessarily running serious systemic risks as explained hereinbefore.
One thought on “Germany´s failing ´stored´ nat-gas & LNG experiment”
I get the picture, I think…. The inflow of gas is needed to utilise the so-called reserves, but as they are used they have to be replenished, so they aren’t really reserves at all – just a storage buffer.
Otherwise, the EU continues to operate on a no-thought, fact-free basis hoping to get away with their monumental blunder, and hoping to be able to supress dissent.
The level of incompetence and stupidity is mind-boggling, and coupled with extreme levels of belligerence and hatred towards an ‘enemy’ they don’t understand at all, it is a million % guaranteed recipe for economic and civil disaster. It doesn’t matter to what extent it was engineered by the US and/or Davos, the damage is done – they can’t go back without risking even more punishment from Washington.
I’m really really pleased I no longer live in Europe! I feel desperately sorry for those who do, particular those poor, sick and elderly who will suffer badly.