Sweden: Nord Stream Explosions Were Result Of “Gross Sabotage”

Traces of explosives were found near the sites of the explosions at the Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea, confirming “gross sabotage” Sweden investigators said last Friday.

Gas leaks in each of the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines were discovered at the end of September from the infrastructure just outside Swedish and Danish territorial waters in the Baltic Sea.

The Swedish investigators concluded that the leaks were the result of detonations, likely the result of “serious sabotage”. 

Sweden, Denmark, and Germany are also jointly investigating the incident with the gas pipelines built to carry Russian gas to Germany via the Baltic Sea.

Nord Stream 2 was never put into operation after Germany axed the certification process following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Russia, for its part, shut down Nord Stream 1 indefinitely in early September, claiming an inability to repair gas turbines because of the Western sanctions.

The investigation into the explosion continues, but Sweden’s public prosecutor Mats Ljungqvist, who leads the preliminary investigation, says that the incident was a “gross sabotage.”

In response, the UK Ministry of Defence said that “To detract from their disastrous handling of the illegal invasion of Ukraine, the Russian Ministry of Defence is resorting to peddling false claims of an epic scale.”

U.S. Sanctions 13 Companies Selling Iranian Oil Products To East Asian Buyers

United States has sanctioned 13 firms in multiple jurisdictions that participated in selling Iranian petroleum products to buyers in East Asia, the U.S. Department of the Treasury said in a press release on Thursday.

Today’s action is the fifth round of sanctions “targeting Iran’s illicit petroleum and petrochemical trade since June 2022.”

The 13 companies facilitated the sale of Iranian crude oil on behalf of sanctioned PGPICC, Trilance, NIOC, and NICO. PGPIC was sanctioned in 2019 for providing financial support to Khatam al-Anbiya Construction Headquarters—the engineering arm of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Trilance was sanctioned back in 2018 for materially assisting, sponsoring, or providing support for goods or services in support of NIOC.

Today’s sanctions include Dubai-based Access Technology, which has purchased petrochemicals from PGPICC for shipment to China; Highline Logistic HK Limited, which has served as a front company to allow PGPICC to receive monies from customers; Dubai-based Monch General Trading, for purchasing petrochemical products from PGPICC to broker sales to China; Hong Kong Aeonian Complex; Hong Kong-based Torgan Co; China-based Zhejiang Wonder Imp. and Exp.; UAE-based Asian Zone Trading; UAE-based Galaxy Petrochemical FZE; UAE-based Newton Traind FZE; UAE-based Sum Five Petrochemicals Trading; Hong Kong-based Barza Style & Mode Co; Uteliz Resources Co; and China-based East Asia Trading Import and Export Trade Co.

Under the new sanctions, all property and interests in property of these entities that are in the United States or under the control of U.S. persons will be blocked.

“Today’s action further demonstrates the complex sanctions evasion methods Iran employs to illicitly sell petroleum and petrochemical products,” the Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, Brian Nelson, said in the release, adding that the United States would “continue to implement sanctions against those actors facilitating these sales.”

Iran, a sizeable member of OPEC, has had its oil output restricted as a result of Western sanctions.

 EU’s proposed natural gas price cap will ‘distort’ market signals, Rystad says

The European Commission’s proposed price cap on natural gas will “distort” market signals with potential “unintended consequences” for demand and supply, Rystad Energy said in a report on Friday.
The EU plans to propose a cap on natural gas prices after November 24, as part of its efforts to contain an energy crisis resulting from Russia’s military offensive in Ukraine, the EU’s energy policy chief told Reuters on Wednesday.

This proposal includes a market correction mechanism for the Dutch TTF gas futures, the benchmark European contract.

“Any move to limit prices on the headline TTF will distort market signals on the most established gas hub on earth with potential unintended consequences for supply security or demand-reduction measures,” the Norway-based consultancy said.

“Furthermore, such a price cap may prove impossible to implement if trades go off-exchange.”
Natural gas prices in the continent have been volatile over the last week as a disruption at Norway’s Asgard field has reduced supply by 19.8 million cubic meters per day through November 19.
European gas futures, which dropped to a multi-month low of €93.35 per megawatt hour in October, have since gained about 23 per cent.

There is “some associated risk of outage extensions that will pressure Europe’s well-stocked but still vulnerable storage volumes as we approach the last few days of net injections,” said Rystad.

Europe’s gas storage facilities are now more than 95 per cent filled ahead of the winter, but analysts have raised concerns about the continent’s ability to meet demand in 2023 when Russian gas exports are expected to come to a complete halt.

“The risk of disruption to Russian liquefied natural gas imports, for the moment, appears largely shrugged off, but could resurface in 2023,” said Rystad.

Imports of Russian LNG into Europe and the UK rose by nearly 20 per cent between March and October this year compared to the same period in 2021.

European imports of Russian LNG started to accelerate last year as countries faced a shortage of gas. Since the conflict, Europe has also boosted imports from the US and Gulf countries.

“Temperature forecasts, while previously pointing to a mild start to winter, have been steadily revised towards normal or below normal for the coming weeks,” said the consultancy.

The shutdown of Freeport’s LNG export plant in Texas has added to the squeeze on global gas supplies.
“There may be some limited upward price momentum from the delayed restart of the Freeport LNG in Texas, which we expect will get pushed to January from the previously stated mid-November timeframe,” said Rystad.

Freeport LNG, one of the seven export facilities for the commodity in the US, represents about 4 per cent of the global LNG market and its shutdown has curtailed the country’s LNG export capacity by about 2 billion cubic feet per day, according to the US Energy Information Administration.

“There has been much speculation about the restart date, with the operator maintaining the mid-November target until recently, which means offtakers that might have been counting on a restart are likely to seek alternative volumes,” said Rystad.

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