Full storage is fine, but it’s time for structural solutions for gas

Full storage is fine, but it's time for structural solutions for gas


The “crisis” of the past few months has not completely subsided even if we can look at winter with optimism. Now we need to guarantee energy security in the short and medium term considering the new geopolitical balances and the needs of the green transition

The fill level of the Italian gas storages has come to touch share 80 percent last Monday June 19, two months earlier than in past years. A fact that until recently would have gone unnoticed but which in the light of what has been happening in Europe for the past year and a half has not only become noteworthy but even falls into the category of “good news”. It is an advance which, if on the one hand allows us to manage the arrival of the cold season with relative optimism and without preventive alarmism, on the other however, it must not make us let our guard down. Not only on next winter (which with Scipio’s heat seems so far away but for those who have to plan it’s tomorrow) but also on the following ones. And neither on plans for the infrastructure we need, also with a view to transitioning towards “green molecules”. Need a first sign? It is that of gas price volatilitywhich fell from 150 euros per MWh in December to 23 euros at the beginning of June and then climbed back to 50 euros and fell again in recent days, with prices for January 2024 around 55 euros per MWh.

In short: the “crisis” of the past few months has not completely subsided and various factors that played positively in the past winter may not repeat themselves. In 2022, Italy received approximately 11 billion cubic meters of gas from Russia (there were 29 the year before). The warmer weather has saved about 2 billion cubic meters, roughly the same amount guaranteed by the government’s containment actions. The switch to coal for electricity generation had a significant impact, with side effects on CO2 emissions. But there is no guarantee that the favorable events will recur. It is true that from now on we should be able to count on the Piombino regasification ship. However, for the second regasification terminal in Ravenna we will have to wait for the autumn of 2024 and not take another mild winter for granted. And then there is China, which will return to the LNG market, liquefied natural gas. Last year Beijing imported 23 billion cubic meters less than the previous year, losing the scepter of the world’s largest importer, but last April and May it recorded significant signs of recovery.

What should not be forgotten is that the response to the crisis in this first phase took place mainly through “conjunctural” countermeasures, aimed at avoiding emergencies, while now the task is becoming more demanding and above all undeferrable. The time has come for infrastructural solutions, capable of guaranteeing energy security in the short and medium term and of taking into consideration the new facts imposed by the changed geopolitical balance and the needs of the green transition.

It is for all these reasons that systems such as the Piombino and Ravenna regasification terminalsas well as the acceleration in the implementation of the Adriatic linewhich by allowing us to overcome the bottlenecks of gas transport from South to North will allow us to make a flexibility structural which cannot fail to have effects also on prices.

But the strategic nature of a work like the Adriatica, or like the storage facilities, doesn’t stop there. In the perspective of the energy transition, and in addition to complementing the path of renewables, the Adriatic will allow the creation of the new route dedicated to green hydrogen – the SoutH2 Corridor which Meloni and Scholz also recently discussed – as soon as its production arrives at adequate quantitative levels in the South of the country and, hopefully, in North Africa. In the medium-long term, the vision of a company like Snam can only be this: investing in the composition of competitive infrastructures, capable of transporting “green molecules” from biomethane to hydrogen, thus promoting their development. And the energy transition.

Stefano Venier is CEO of Snam


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