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Russia burning off $10 million of gas daily as Europe freezes

The EU accuses Russia of strangling supply to retaliate over Ukraine sanctions.

LNG plant burning off excess gas, also known as flaring
Planta de GNL quemando un exceso de gas | Shutterstock

August 26, 2022 4:01pm

Updated: August 26, 2022 5:27pm

Squeezed by sanctions, Russia is burning off millions of dollars’ worth of unsold gas every day at a plant near its border with Europe as the continent clamors to find alternative sources as energy prices soar.

Experts say the liquified natural gas plant at Portovaya, near the start of the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to Germany, is burning an estimated $10 million worth of gas every day, reports The Times of London.

Moscow has cited technical issues for lowering gas pipeline capacity into Europe, but Berlin argues state-owned Gazprom is rationing supply to pressure EU governments and sow discontent over the war in Ukraine.

Natural gas prices in Europe spiked over 80% this after Gazprom announced this week it was stopping supplies for a few days for maintenance.

Burning off excess gas, also known as “flaring,” is usually better for the environment than venting methane, a major contributor to climate change. It is also more cost-effective to keep a plant running due to the technical difficulty of restarting one once stopped.

But scientists say the gas being burnt at Portovaya is also creating “black carbon” that accelerates the melting of snow and ice, estimating the plant is releasing the equivalent of 9,000 tons of CO2 emissions every day. For reference, pop star Taylor Swift was accused of creating 8,293.54 tons of CO2 flight emissions with her private jet’s 170 flights in the first half of the year.

Germany has been under fire for becoming heavily reliant on Russian energy exports during its transition to green energy. At the outbreak of Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, Berlin was purchasing 50% of its coal, 55% of its gas and 35% of its oil from Russia.

Russia is one of the largest players in global energy – the second-largest oil exporter behind Saudi Arabia and the largest exporter of natural gas.

European countries have struggled to pay Russia for gas into winter due to high prices and how Russia was cut off from the SWIFT international payment system, which the Kremlin appears to be watching with amusement.

“The cold is coming soon. Nobody has cancelled winter, and alternative supplies of gas, oil, and coal are expensive or simply unrealistic,” Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chair of Russia’ Security Council, gloated last month.