27.01.2021

Why is it so difficult to spend gas in rich Russia

“Shoemaker without shoes” – this saying most accurately describes the situation on the Russian gas market. On the one hand, our country is increasing its fuel expansion to foreign markets, despite numerous geopolitical obstacles. The Nord Stream-2 and Turkish Stream pipelines should start working early next year. Putting them into operation will be a historic event – Moscow will almost completely get rid of its dependence on Ukrainian transit to Europe. However, focusing on exports, Russia still cannot provide its own population with “national wealth” – gas. The rate of gasification in our country is growing too slowly. Until now, it is often more profitable for many villagers to go to the woods for wood to warm their family,

The topic of gasification of Russia was raised quite recently – at the March meeting of President Vladimir Putin with the head of Gazprom Alexei Miller. The latter tried to paint a positive picture, saying that gas supplies to domestic consumers last year grew by 5.5%, or 12.8 billion cubic meters. And to the question of the head of state, how much more affordable will be the “blue fuel” to the Russian population this year, Miller, without thinking, answered that the internal supply of gas will increase by 1%. “In any case, within a maximum of ten years, we can reach a level of gasification that would allow us to say that this issue has been fully resolved in Russia,” the head of Gazprom promised the president.

The statement is binding. But how realistic is the performance of such a task? According to Miller, at the beginning of 2019, the average level of gasification in Russia was 68.6%: in the cities it is more – 71.3%, in the countryside less – 59.4%. That is, it turns out that the 21st century is already long in the yard, and almost a third of Russia’s population – countries with the largest gas reserves in the world – are deprived of this very gas in their daily lives. At the same time, Alexey Miller remarked that absolutely no one will receive everything through the “blue fuel” pipes and in 10 years – in any case, many rural settlements will have to be content with exclusively local gasification. And this is despite the fact that the head of Gazprom calls work with Russian consumers an “unconditional priority” of his company.

Death cylinders

The Russians, mainly rural residents, are outraged by this scenario: why is the country, which occupies almost 37% of the European energy balance through gas supplies, unable to provide its own population with affordable raw materials? Millions of our compatriots are still forced to buy gas cylinders and regularly refill them for cooking and heating, which, among other things, leads to additional costs for households – usually the poor – for transportation. And not all fuel stations agree to refuel old gas cylinders – this is really dangerous both for the tankers themselves and for those who use such fuel. According to data from open sources, only in 2018 in different parts of the country more than 300 cases of explosions of cylinders with extremely unpleasant consequences were recorded:

Everyone remembers the resonant cases of gas explosions with numerous victims in Magnitogorsk, Shakhty, Krasnoyarsk. But here is a brief chronicle of gas emergencies simply chosen at random period: August-September last year. The explosion of domestic gas in a residential one-story house of the village Ulukulevo in Bashkiria. Two apartments collapsed, two people died, two more were injured. Fire due to the explosion of a gas cylinder in the convent of the village of Krasnaya Gorka of the Perm Territory, the priest died. With the explosion of a balloon in Yakutia, children miraculously did not suffer. In a fire near Krasnodar, two children died. The two-story house, taken by their parents in a mortgage, burned down – a gas cylinder exploded, as they had no central heating… It seems that the whole country is on a powder keg, well, or, more precisely, on a gas leak.

However, there is no direct fault of Gazprom representatives in these dramatic situations – many people themselves neglect the safety rules, and therefore accidents occur. On the other hand, if all these houses and apartments were gasified, the misfortunes would almost certainly not have happened. And this is the responsibility of our gas monopoly.

Gazprom is confident that the regions should assume some of the responsibility for the insufficiently high rates of gasification of the country. According to Alexey Miller, if the local authorities were more active in ensuring the construction of internal networks, the level of gas supply to homestead plots of Russians would now be 65%.

This is confirmed by independent experts. According to an INFOLine study, the lag behind the plan for implementing the gasification program implemented by the concern was noted last year in fourteen Russian regions. In some places – for example, in the Khabarovsk Territory, Stavropol Territory, Kamchatka, Dagestan, and Karachay-Cherkessia – this plan was almost completely ignored.

The administrations of the entities explain the failure of the gasification program with high consumer indebtedness and failure to fulfill obligations to prepare consumers for gas intake. This is true: in the middle of 2018, total debts, in particular, of the North Caucasus regions to the marketing organizations of Gazprom amounted to 37 billion rubles. The collection of payments for gas there hardly reaches 60%, while in other federal districts it does not fall below 90%. It can be assumed that the gasification program has stalled due to the debts of ordinary consumers, who do not always have enough money to pay for utilities.

Indeed, the salaries of residents of the North Caucasus are among the lowest in the country: the average salary in Dagestan and Karachay-Cherkessia is only 17–18 thousand rubles a month. Meanwhile, we can recall the arrest of Senator Rauf Arashukov and his father Raul, who served as adviser to the head of Gazprom Mezhregiongaz, accused of numerous frauds with stealing blue fuel worth 30 billion rubles in precisely those regions where the gasification program is not being implemented. In the opinion of the investigation, they sold gas, bypassing accounting units, and shifted debt obligations to “dead souls” – non-existent citizens and abandoned real estate objects. The same is suspected of several heads of regional sales and distribution units that are part of Gazprom. If fraud under such schemes is proven, it will become obvious

Percent write, two in mind

Increasing the level of gasification of the country by 1% per year is not bad either. Gazprom’s large-scale program to provide Russian regions with blue fuel was launched in 2005. At that time, the cumulative gasification level of the country was only 54%. Since then, the monopoly has built almost 2.5 thousand gas pipelines with a length of over 30 thousand km, provided conditions for gasification of about 4.5 thousand settlements, more than 5 thousand boiler houses and 900 thousand households and apartments.

As a result, the level of gasification in Russia grew by 15%. Moving at a similar pace, by 2030, our country will approach the level of 85–88% set in the government’s plans, voiced earlier by the former deputy head of the Ministry of Energy Kirill Molodtsov. True, to achieve this result, Gazprom is hardly able to do.

This will be impossible to do for reasons not directly related to the main activity of the monopoly. The task of Gazprom is to lay the pipe to a certain settlement. A direct connection to the network often falls on the shoulders and wallets of the consumers themselves. Many readers of MK pay attention to the problems associated with such labor-intensive activities, and the high costs of implementing this process.

Let us ask ourselves: how much does a gas connection to a private house cost? All actions need to be expanded in steps. First, who wants to bring the pipeline to his own house, you must choose the type of gas supply. When the heated area of ​​the building does not exceed 250 square meters, the consumption will be no more than 5 cubic meters per hour – this is the most popular option for private housing. However, there are nuances. The areas where such houses are located should be located no more than 200 meters from the laid pipeline, and their connection will not be a reason for creating additional gas pressure reducing points.

The lucky ones who are within the limits of this segment will still have to seriously fork out for the ultimate confidence in receiving “blue fuel”. Depending on the region, according to the monitoring data of “MK”, such services require impressive expenses. The initial registration of the application, assistance in collecting documents, obtaining a positive decision on the creation of a local branch are estimated at 10–60 thousand rubles. For the preparation of a project for which gasification will take place, including for a specialist call, another 5-25 thousand rubles will be required. Laying the local pipe will be 1-6 thousand per square meter. The tie-in to the gas pipeline will cost 10–20 thousand rubles, and 2–4 thousand rubles will have to be paid for checking the readiness of the gas supply system. “The circle” sometimes goes up to 500 thousand rubles for those who live near megacities, and up to 200 thousand rubles to those

If someone decides to carry out such work on their own, without issuing a relevant document – to make a tie-in to the gas pipeline without permission, then the violator is threatened with a fine. Individuals will have to give up to 20 thousand rubles, to firms – up to 250 thousand, and the officials who have closed their eyes on it will have to part with the sum of 100 thousand rubles.

As a result, for many consumers, a hopeless situation is taking shape: even if there is already a gas pipe at hand, in order to become a full-fledged recipient of “blue fuel”, a person will often have to pay an extremely heavy amount of hundreds of thousands of rubles. And the illegal connection to the gas supply system threatens to become a pretext for administrative and even criminal punishment. In addition, such operations are the main cause of tragic situations – explosions, fires, and death.

On blue gas

Apparently, this is precisely why promises that the vast territory of Russia will someday be gasified to one hundred percent, none of the leaders of the extractive industry have been giving for a long time. Two years ago, the head of the Ministry of Energy, Alexander Novak, admitted that individual regions of Russia will never have their own gas transportation infrastructure.

Such a disappointing outlook is caused both by objective reasons and by the arguments on which state-owned companies responsible for providing the population with “blue fuel” rely. Private business entities agree with them.

For Gazprom, the expansion of deliveries abroad is the main revenue side of financial reports. In 2018, average gas prices in the central regions of Russia were $ 72–74 per thousand cubic meters for industry and $ 57–59 for the population. At the same time, according to the former deputy head of Gazprom, Alexander Medvedev, who was responsible until recently in the holding for export policy, by the end of 2018, the average price of raw materials supplied by Gazprom to non-CIS countries was $ 248. The sale of “blue fuel” abroad, according to statistics from the Federal Customs Service, in 2018, in value terms, grew by almost a third and exceeded $ 49 billion. Income from domestic supplies brought monopolies 3-4 times less.

Repeatedly, proposals were made to shift part of the responsibility for the gasification of the regions to private companies. However, non-state companies are demanding in exchange preferences to give an opportunity to increase exports, which could somewhat level down the costs of laying and maintaining domestic Russian lines. True, even under such conditions there is no guarantee that private structures will engage in regional gasification. As suggested by the deputy. Alexei Grivach, Director General for Gas Problems of the National Energy Security Foundation, commercial incentives for such work are unlikely to arise. Especially against the backdrop of growing debt from industrial consumers and the ordinary population.

“So far in Russia, more than 140 thousand districts can be counted, whose residents are forced to be content with gas cylinders to provide their families with warmth and comfort,” says Sergey Suverov, head of the analytical department of BCS Premier. “These are not only remote villages and towns, for which it’s unprofitable to pull pipes to Gazprom.” The expert draws attention to the fact that many localities located near large cities, not excluding the central part of the country, also cannot boast of their own gas pipe. And the amount of 200–500 thousand rubles that households need to spend on blue fuel to their homes turns hope into an impossible dream.

“It is often cheaper for many villagers to collect firewood. Fines for deforestation and cutting fallen trees in Russia are lower than the potential costs of gas. Unfortunately, there is a certainty that many Russians, unable to pay for gas, will continue to manage their households in the twenty-first century with this very traditional method of domestic life a century ago, ”Suverov made a disappointing conclusion.

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