The premier flies to Congo and Angola: hunting for 5 billion cubic meters. But we need the regasifiers
A stop in Luanda in Angola on Wednesday, immediately after in Brazzaville, the capital of the former French Congo. For Mario Draghi, looking for alternatives to Russian gas costs time and kilometers. Having closed the agreements with his African neighbors – Algeria and Egypt – the premier is now forced to go far beyond the borders of the territorial seas. The dispute between Europe and Moscow over the payment of gas in rubles, and the increasingly concrete probability of having to break off trade relations with the Tsar, make it necessary to do so quickly. The diplomatic reason is more valid than the practical reason: the sooner Italy will guarantee different supplies, the stronger it will be able to show itself in the face of Russian blackmail. Eni has been in charge of the two countries for years, but until now its attention has focused on oil.
Draghi’s visit serves to secure a good that has been snubbed up to now because it is expensive compared to that transported through pipes: liquefied gas. According to estimates circulating in the government, the visit is worth the equivalent of five, perhaps six billion cubic meters of gas per year. To have an order of magnitude, at least one sixth of the Russian requirement. But with a big one: the liquefied gas is transported by ship and subsequently transformed in the regasifiers. Italy has three, all on the sea facing La Spezia, Livorno and Rovigo. Their capacity can be improved, but without new infrastructure, the liquid-laden ships arriving from Congo and Angola will not be of much use.
Enel has stopped a project in Porto Empedocle for years, but the Minister of Ecological Transition Roberto Cingolani considers it a long-term investment and uncertain destinies. So he gave Snam a mandate to go hunting for two regasification vessels, in the hope of not having them blown by other countries such as Germany. Hopefully, the first floating regasification plant will arrive at the beginning of 2023, and will be placed at the port of Piombino, already equipped to transfer gas to the Snam network.
In short, the only enemy of the Russian gas liberation strategy is time. Cingolani made it clear: the problem is next winter. For this reason, at Palazzo Chigi and at the Ministry of Transition, a lot of attention is being paid to subsidized auctions for gas storage which began on April 1st, and on which it was necessary to overcome the objections of the Energy Authority. And if the stop to Russian gas really comes, it will also be necessary to prepare for a reduction in consumption. Draghi has not yet used the word “austerity” in vogue in the 1970s, but that’s what it is. The first step has been completed: in public offices the temperature has been reduced by one degree in winter (from twenty to nineteen degrees) and by raising the same degree in summer (from twenty-six to twenty-seven).
The next step will be household heating utilities. The estimates are on Draghi’s table: the imposition of one degree less in winter, associated with two hours of less use of the plants, are worth the equivalent of four billion cubic meters of gas, one more than there will be provided by Egypt in contempt of the memory of Giulio Regeni. A government source under strict anonymity paraphrases the premier: «Next winter, Italians will probably have to choose between reasons for peace and a heavier sweater. I believe most of them will have no doubts ». –