The plan includes switching gas-fired power plants to biomass and saving gas for export, according to Naftogaz
Ukraine’s state energy major Naftogaz plans to boost natural gas production and switch domestically to alternative energy, thus accumulating enough fuel to supply the EU during next year’s heating season, the company’s CEO Yuriy Vitrenko told Reuters.
According to Vitrenko, Ukraine could produce enough gas to substitute Russian supplies if it attracts investment and technology from Western partners.
“We’re working on some new projects that can really expand production in Ukraine significantly – by 10% to 30%,” he said, noting that his company is exploring shale and horizontal drilling technologies in order to boost output.
Meanwhile, according to Vitrenko, Naftogaz is also working on ways to convert gas-fired power plants to biomass materials. According to the CEO, Ukraine has the potential “to produce about ten billion cubic meters of biomass-energy,” which, according to Reuters data, is the same amount of gas Ukraine imported before the start of Russia’s military operation in February.
However, some analysts point out that it is unlikely that the plans outlined by Vitrenko will bear fruit. Ukraine has been unsuccessful in increasing domestic production for years and the situation is unlikely to change, especially since about 75% of Ukrainian gas production facilities are said to be very close to the front lines.
Additionally, the country’s gas reserves are low. Last year, Ukraine burnt roughly 19.4 billion cubic meters of gas during the heating season. Earlier this year, the government obliged Naftogaz to accumulate at least 19 billion cubic meters of gas in storage facilities, but it has only managed to store about 13 billion cubic meters as of September 1, according to the country’s natural gas transmission system operator (GTS Ukraine). Ukraine has not been buying gas directly from Russia since 2015, importing reverse supplies of Russian gas from Europe instead. And, with Russian gas flows dwindling amid sanctions and technical troubles, analysts fear Ukraine will not be able to store much more.
Furthermore, analysts say a large-scale conversion of Ukraine’s power system to biomass power is unrealistic. According to former Naftogaz spokesman Maksim Beliavsky, it would take some $100 million in investments to produce just one million cubic meters of biomass energy a year.
Even with Western investment, replacing Russian gas supplies to the EU, which totaled around 155 billion cubic meters last year, seems like an impossible task for Ukraine.