by Diego Gavagnin
In these days of natural gas price crisis, many use this Neapolitan expression, "we can only wait until the end of the night". But we know that the "nuttata" will pass, because there is much more natural gas than we will be able to consume in the next 25/30 years. It is a market that, thanks to LNG, is free from price signs and open, because the molecule travels more and more by sea. If demand increases, supply will increase.
There is also often talk of a "perfect storm", I do not know what it means but certainly what has happened in the past two years for Covid and in recent months the prices should resemble it a lot. Global lack of supply, due to investment delays due to the uncertainties of political choices (role of natural gas in the ecological transition); the closures due to the pandemic, which slowed down the construction of infrastructures and above all the asynchronous stop and go of the economic recovery of the major consumer countries; climatic variability, which slowed wind production (a phenomenon that may recur in the future); geopolitical (Belarus-Europe, Russia-Ukraine, China-Australia) and financial (Turkey) tensions that push futures upwards on all raw materials; the cost of CO2, which emitters must pay; the increase in the environmental awareness of Asian states, which albeit each with their own timescales have plans to leave coal.
But we will get out of it, and an important clarification has come in recent days, because it is now decided that natural gas will enter the European taxonomy of energy sources that can still be developed. Not oil and coal, and this means that in the next few years gas will be needed more, not less, mainly to produce electricity but also for trucks and ships. In addition to all those users far from the pipelines that will no longer be able to use petroleum derivatives.
The sectors that have to look further ahead in terms of investment, such as the naval sector, lead by example. The large shipowners, with few exceptions, continue to order large LNG ships, even in this phase of "absurd" prices. Not only that, they also plan to use LNG on board to produce hydrogen and other synthetic fuels. Meanwhile, everyone is committed to reducing methane emissions, which is very feasible with current technologies. According to the International Energy Agency of the OECD, the recovery of the boil off and the authorized releases alone pays for itself with the value of the gas stored in this way.
Asia is now well supplied with LNG and LNG carriers are reversing their routes to reach Europe where prices are higher. Their arrival will bring down the prices of LNG, but not the overall price of natural gas, treated on the European energy exchanges, conditioned by the real and threatened reduction of supplies via pipeline.
Even when the current crisis is over, dependence on import gas pipelines will remain the main problem of our country and of Europe. In Italy there is now talk, in the emergency, of accelerating the national production of natural gas from the fields of the Adriatic, but which is nearing exhaustion. Temporary solution, which also eliminates a strategic reserve.
What our country lacks are regasifiers, those we have are not enough. It would be enough to build the two authorized Porto Empedocle and Gioia Tauro, for a total of 20 billion cubic meters, to make us safe. They can be done in two / three years, and amortized over the next thirty. The announcement of their construction alone would force all our suppliers via pipeline to review their behavior.