In a twist that could further embarrass Russian President Vladimir Putin, Europe’s gas crisis caused by Russia hampering supply via the Nord Stream pipeline, could be partly resolved by Ukraine.
According to British newspaper The Telegraph, the Ukrainian state-owned energy company Naftogaz is in ongoing discussions with an American drilling company to begin extraction operations on Ukraine’s untapped gas reserves.
Ukraine has the third largest natural gas reserves in Europe, according to British Petroleum (BP) and the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
“We have a number of resources and gas reserves,” Myron Wasylyk, an adviser to the chief executive of Naftogaz, told The Telegraph on Sunday, Oct. 17.
“There is exploration potential there and also export potential there,” he said. “We estimate there could be up to 40 billion cubic meters [of gas].”
However, Wasylyk advised that although the reserves would “absolutely” meet the needs of Ukraine’s neighbors, the supply would likely not be deliverable “until the second half of this decade.”
The tapping of Ukrainian gas could still prove frustrating to President Putin and an eventual lifeline for Europe, whose leaders have openly expressed their desire to move away from reliance on Russian energy supplies.
On Oct. 6, British Prime Minister Liz Truss said that she and French President Emmanuel Macron were among the list of Western leaders seeking to break away from their nation’s reliance on Russia.
“Ending European reliance on Russian energy and tackling the criminal gangs that traffic people across Europe are priorities that President Emmanuel Macron and I share,” she tweeted.
In March, following the start of Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine the month prior, U.S. President Joe Biden and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen jointly announced in a press conference that they were cooperating to introduce a joint task force to reduce Europe’s reliance on Russian fossil fuels.
“We’re going to have to make sure the families in Europe can get through this winter and the next while we’re building the infrastructure for a diversified, resilient and clean energy future,” said Biden.
The ambitious plan includes the U.S. working with other nations to increase exports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Europe by at least 15 billion cubic meters by the end of this year.
“The U.S. is an energy superpower, and we need this sort of alliance to not be blackmailed in Europe by the Russians,” said George Zachmann, a senior fellow at Brussels-based think tank Bruegel.
He also said that 15 billion cubic meters of gas was still “a sensible amount.” However, he added, “it is still far from what we would need from the U.S. in terms of supplies to feel safe.”
The EU is heavily dependent on Russian energy, with about 40 percent of EU gas coming from Russia, along with over a quarter of its oil.