Germany’s gas imports

President Trump claimed this at yesterday’s NATO summit:

Germany is totally controlled by Russia because they will be getting from 60% to 70% of their energy from Russia and a new pipeline.

I’m going to focus on the subordinate clause here. As the BBC points out, Trump should have said “their gas” rather than “their energy”:

gas makes up less than 20% of Germany’s energy mix for power production.

If Trump was talking about natural gas, I should agree that Germany might be getting 60%-70% of its gas imports from Russia in five-seven years from now. An improbable but possible scenario.

However, it’s rather unlikely to be the case now, and almost certain not to have been in 2017. Consider this Reuters report from January 2018:

Russia’s Gazprom said on Jan. 3 that it had shipped 53.4 billion cubic metres to Germany. Converted to terajoules that would constitute 39.3 percent of the total.

Reuters uses 35 TJ/mmcm for the calorific value of Russian piped gas, which is probably close enough – see Appendix 2 in this paper by Jack Sharples at the OIES. Some of Gazprom’s gas sold in Germany comes from sources other than Russia so the exported volume was probably a couple percent less than the 53.4 bcm above.

Now we have to reconcile Russia’s share reported by Reuters – less than 40% – with this statement by the BBC:

Eurostat estimates that Russia is responsible for between 50% and 75% of Germany’s gas imports [in 2017].

The reason for the discrepancy between Reuters and the BBC/Eurostat is more or less obvious. What Eurostat estimated was Russia’s share in Germany’s gas imports from outside the EU. That leaves only Norway and Russia as eligible exporters, so whenever Russia pumps more than Norway, it gets more than 50%.

But Germany also buys natural gas from the Netherlands, which Eurostat does not count as imports because it comes from within the EU.

In 2015, gas from the Netherlands accounted for 29% of Germany’s gas imports. Norway accounted for 34%; Russia, for 35%; “unknown countries,” probably Denmark and the UK, for 2%. The Netherlands’ 10-year average share was 23%. (Germany’s export-import regulator, BAFA, stopped breaking down gas imports by source after 2015 for “data protection” reasons.) Assuming the Netherlands’ share in the 20-25% range in 2017, Gazprom’s 52 or 53 bcm would imply Russia’s share of non-EU imports within 50-53% and possibly a little more.

Now I’ve reconciled Reuters with Eurostat: Russia “is responsible” for about 40% of Germany’s gas imports and for more than 50% of its non-EU gas imports by calorific value. In the future, as output from the Groningen field continues to decline and as more pipeline capacity from Russia becomes available, it’s possible that most of the Netherlands’ share goes to Russia. That’s how the 60-70% range becomes a possibility in the longer term. A possibility, not a likely scenario.

(Note that Eurostat estimated Russia’s share of the monetary value, not the volume or energy content, of imported gas. Perhaps Russian gas was much more expensive in 2017 than gas from other sources? For Russia’s 40% volume share to translate into a 50% value share, Germany would have had to buy Russian gas at a 50% premium to non-Russian gas. It’s too much of a premium for 2017. This explanation doesn’t work.)

The big picture is actually more complicated, as Germany also re-exports 20-25% of its gas imports.

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