In the first working week of this year, Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak reported on the results of his work in 2021: the overall level of gasification of the population reached 72%, gas is available in 78 regions of Russia, 43 million apartments and households were supplied with gas in 48 thousand settlements. And in 2021, 564 thousand applications for connection to gas were submitted (a two-fold increase compared to 2020) and 450 thousand of them were approved. Sounds promising and gives hope that no gas riots will emerge in gas-rich Russia. But there are facts that give rise to doubts about such a bright prospect for gasification. Novye Izvestia, together with a leading expert of the Union of Oil and Gas Producers of Russia, Rustam Tankayev, and a leading analyst of the National Energy Security Fund, Igor Yushkov, tried to figure out whether people should rely on affordable gas.
It was recently announced that in 2022 they will develop a gasification scheme for the Trans-Baikal Territory. But the energy balance of the region, on which the scheme will be based, does not imply a frantic demand for gas. Not because people do not need it, but because it is expensive. In the baseline scenario of calculations, with a cubic meter price of 6.2-7.7 rubles, the annual gas consumption in the region will be about 1.13 billion cubic meters. m. But a decrease in the price of a cubic meter to 4.2 rubles will increase consumption by almost 3 times to 3.4 billion cubic meters! Everything depends on the price.
And we must not forget that social gasification, or "pre-gasification" promises to extend the pipe only if the gas is brought into the settlement, and only to the border of the site. And then - at your own expense. The pleasure is not cheap - confirms Igor Yushkov:
- The post-gasification program makes life a little easier for people who wanted to connect, but will solve all their problems: for example, a gas pipeline was built to the border of your fence for free, but further inside the fence is also an expensive pleasure. It is expensive, about 2.5 - 3 thousand per meter, just to have a pipe laid on your site. This is the official tariff of Oblgas and Gorgaz. And inside the house, you also have to start a pipe, buy a boiler, put a stove, a boiler, all kinds of equipment, and all this is also very expensive, a radiator for heating is also expensive. In total, not everyone will pull such gasification, and in this regard, there are no decisions so far and it is not a fact that the state will take it all upon itself.
Not a few hundred thousand rubles - continue to heat your houses with wood or coal, which is also not cheap. And this applies not only to Siberia or the Far East, which are invisible from the Kremlin, but also to the regions of the European part of Russia. Gas has been expected in the village of Nosovaya in the Nizhny Novgorod Region since 2009. But the pipeline has not yet been brought to the village, which means that there is no "social gasification" there. Local residents say that heating with wood is not only inconvenient (if you go to work - the house is cooling down) and dangerous, but it is also very costly. A stock of firewood for the winter costs 15 thousand rubles, chopping and stacking firewood is about the same. And the pension is about 16 thousand rubles. And there are no plans to gasify the village until 2025.
Rustam Tankayev adds that many problems with gasification are not related to technical difficulties, but to corruption.
- The main obstacle to the gasification of Russia was corruption. A powerful corruption scheme, which, in terms of money turnover and its lobbying capabilities, was quite at the state level. It was very difficult to deal with this, they tried for over 20 years. And only when it became clear that this powerful corruption structure was completely beyond the control of the state, the president adopted appropriate decrees to break this situation. We had local gas monopolies, which provided one, two or three settlements each. Main gas pipelines were connected to each settlement, but then the municipality had to make the wiring to the houses at its own expense. This was a problem for a small village. But even after the wiring for the settlement was done, the next stages of problems began - it was necessary to get a bunch of documentation. The result of all this was the same - the inaccessibility of gas in the country where this gas is the most on earth. What is happening now is a breakdown of the corruption scheme, which acted as an alternative to the state.
Maybe the process of getting rid of corruption has begun, but there is still a long way to go to a complete cure. For example, recently, in the Chelyabinsk region, a criminal case was opened against officials, including the head of the Nagaybaksky district, under an article of negligence: the contractor UralStroyGroup LLC received 26 million rubles for gasification of the village, but the documentation was not completed, the acceptance certificate was not was signed. The money is gone, there seems to be a pipe, but there is no gas in it. And not everything is going smoothly with Mezhregiongaz: its subsidiary OOO Gazprom Gazifikatsiya has been appointed as the single operator of gasification in Russia. There is no way to get away from Gazprom Mezhregiongaz ... Increasing the status of the organization alone does not help to solve all the problems. The Severny microdistrict of large families in Yakutsk has not received gas by the winter due to violations of the contractor's gas pipe blowing technology. Local social activists have studied the issue and argue that it is possible to blow through the pipes in winter, it's just more expensive. People were left without heat in 50-degree frosts, they are heated by electricity for 40 thousand a month, and they are promised gas only by August 2022. The single operator does not intervene in the situation.
But the residents of the Severny microdistrict were still lucky. One way or another, their gas supply has reached the home stretch. Igor Yushkov notes that many regions have not seen blue fuel at all and will not see it soon due to a number of reasons.
- Gasification at a more or less normal level, above 70%, at least the regions of the European part of Russia is a matter of decades. And the farther north, the worse. We have regions without gas at all - Arkhangelsk and Murmansk regions. All northern regions, even in the European part of Russia, are virtually without gas. Well, many southern regions too. It would be good to at least resolve these issues. This is a long story and it cannot be solved abruptly, and every next remote settlement will become more and more expensive to connect. And there are more egregious stories like Krasnoyarsk choking on coal. It is necessary to do something, but at the same time there are certain interests of the coal industry, which, it seems, also cannot be deprived of the domestic market, otherwise mines and everything else will have to be closed, which means that people need to be attached somewhere, for other work, and for many these are villages monotype, there are very big problems here, they cannot be solved instantly either, so gasification will be quite difficult.
At the same time, simply providing people with gas is not a problem. Rustam Tankaev thinks so. It's another matter what kind of gas it will be and how much it will cost.
- From a purely technical point of view, it is not a problem to ensure that all Russian houses are connected to gas, we are even talking about those houses that are outside the gas pipeline system. Because there are opportunities to provide the population with a propane-butane mixture, that is, liquefied gas, which is liquid at a pressure of 6 atmospheres and normal room temperature. There were quite a lot of such gasification points in Russia, for example, quite recently, a rather rather large town of Klin in the Moscow region was sitting on a propane-butane mixture. But they had one significant drawback: the propane-butane mixture itself is partly a motor fuel - what was in Kazakhstan began with an increase in the price of the propane-butane mixture. On the other hand, it is an excellent raw material for petrochemicals, and only on the third side can it be used in housing and communal services. Previously, this product was quoted for housing and communal services, but now it is not, how it will develop is a question. This is a very socially vulnerable point; it is not for nothing that the terrorists in Kazakhstan chose it as a starting point for a coup d'etat in the country.
But there is still so much beloved all over the world liquefied natural gas (LNG - liquefied methane), in which Leonid Mikhelson's NOVATEK company specializes. Tankers transport LNG all over the world, so why not use it inside Russia? Igor Yushkov has the answer.
- If we are talking about liquefied natural gas - methane, which is cooled to minus 160 degrees, then there is the difficulty - it turns out that a low-tonnage LNG plant is being built at the end of the gas pipeline, and from there deliveries are made by cryo-tanks by road. Where it is possible to take it - in the region of about 300-400 km from this plant. You won't be able to carry it over very long distances. This is called autonomous gasification, it is taken into account by Gazprom and the government, and will gradually develop. But a remote village in Yakutia, where few people live, no one will even provide in this way. Therefore, some of the settlements will remain on wood, some on coal, some on fuel oil, on diesel, the northern delivery to the Northern Sea Route, until they probably also switch to LNG.
The city of Blagoveshchensk is a striking example of the consequences of such gas delivery. The level of trunk gasification in the Amur Region is exactly 0% (the prospects are also not so hot - by 2025 it can reach 11.6%), but you can buy gas delivered in tanks. Only 1 cubic meter of such imported gas cost 143.2 rubles in 2021! Even in the Chinese Heihe, located on the opposite bank of the Amur, thanks to supplies via the Power of Siberia, on which Gazprom spent 1.1 trillion rubles, 1 cubic meter came out at 46.9 rubles. But the most offensive for local residents is that in 2022 gas prices in Heihe fell to 41.2 rubles, and in Blagoveshchensk it rose to 148.9 rubles . Alas, there are no alternatives to pipeline gas if the goal is to make environmentally friendly fuel available.
So far, everything indicates that the total gasification of the country will remain a beautiful dream. At the end of 2021, the gasification level was supposed to be 72.2%, but only reached 72%. In 2022, only 1 p.p. will also increase, and in 2023, another 1.7 p.p. And by the time of the presidential elections we will come out with an indicator of 74.7%. Up to 100% is very far. And they, according to Igor Yushkov , are not even in the plans.
- Gas will not come to every village, to every remote hamlet. This task is not set. When the government and Gazprom talk about gasification, they mean economically viable gasification.
The roadmap envisages that by 2030 the gasification of Russian regions will reach 82.9%. That's the reality looks "completely terminated gas supply", which told the deputy chairman of "Gazprom" Vitaly Markelov. The situation now could be completely different if Gazprom fulfilled its obligations. A large-scale gas supply program for the regions was launched in 2005. To this end, even Gazprom was legally assigned a monopoly on gas export via pipelines. The idea was good: Alexey Miller's company would earn on exports and spend the money on infrastructure within Russia. But something went wrong. In the period from 2015 to 2020, the export premium amounted to 2.1 trillion rubles, but 10 times less was spent on gasification of the regions - only 209 billion rubles. As a result, the supply of gas increased every year by less than 1 percentage point.
It was after the introduction of the export monopoly that the rate of gasification was halved. On the other hand, Gazprom spared no money on Nord Streams (the first of them cost 8.8 billion euros, the second was supposed to come out at 9.5 billion euros, but the final price is not known), the total cost of South Stream, which did not exist. 23.5 billion euros, and the $ 7 billion Turkish Stream, which uses the onshore infrastructure of South Stream in Russia, and the already named Power of Siberia. Export turned out to be more interesting than supplying gas to Russians. And here, according to Rustam Tankayev, corruption has not been avoided.
- The specific profit from gas exports per unit of gas volume is much higher than on the domestic market. But the domestic market is still profitable. The situation, when the internal market was in the corral, is largely artificial, and was created to support the corruption scheme.
Igor Yushkov is pinning his hopes on the completion of construction work on export gas pipelines, and Alexey Miller will now be able to redirect financial flows inside Russia.
- In recent years, Gazprom's balance has been changing. He completed Nord Stream 2 - he is not building anything else to Europe, he stopped there. There is a gas processing project in Ust-Luga, but in general, everything has been completed. Gazprom is still continuing to build parts of the Power of Siberia in China, but again, the main investments have already been made there. Therefore, his export expenses are, in general, gradually coming to an end. If he does come to an agreement with China, he can build the Power of Siberia-2. But as long as there are no agreements there, there are no investments and nothing is being built. Therefore, the money is being freed up in order to direct it to gasification. If earlier Gazprom invested somewhere in the 5-7 billion rubles a year in gasification, now it is 30 billion rubles a year.
Igor Yushkov summarizes the real possibilities of supplying the regions with main gas. Without taking into account the "golden" liquefied gas imported by tanks, it is unlikely that it will be possible to reach the desired level.
- In some remote villages, where, moreover, people do not live all year round, gasification will not reach there. Here we can rather talk about cities, about some large settlements, and mainly on the European territory of Russia. We are actually not talking about Western Siberia, Eastern Siberia, the Far East. There is a special situation there, and gas supply there is very limited.
And money, according to Rustam Tankayev, has nothing to do with it - the whole problem is in power and management. Gazprom has a lot of money - in only 9 months of 2021, its net profit amounted to an incredible 1.55 trillion rubles.
- Technically, there are no problems - you can provide everyone with pipeline gas. Why, in fact, such connections of settlements were unprofitable - it was done artificially. In the entire settlement, only a dozen households could be connected, which made gasification impractical. This is not an economic problem, but that of the state power.
But even now, no one will supply gas to anyone for free on the site, install a boiler in the house, do the wiring of batteries ... Even if there is a theoretical possibility to connect to gas, few Russians will pull the associated costs and payment of blue fuel. Sellers of axes and shovels will not remain idle in Russia.