What about the Russian delivery infrastructure, surely that's still in reasonable shape?
Well, the news here is not much better either, according to a remarkably prescient paper 'The Russian Energy Strategy and Energy Policy: Pipeline Diplomacy or Mutual Dependence?' September 2005 [British Ministry of Defence Academy] by Michael Fredholm, which I can wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone interested in this subject.
Just a couple of quotes:
"[Russian] domestic prices are far too low to cover more than present production costs, and do not allow investments in exploration, gas-field development,and domestic infrastructure." [Look out Russian domestic consumers.... ]
More importantly, "In addition, the export infrastructure remains a bottleneck for the entire gas industry. The transport and distribution networks are in urgent need of investment. Over 70% of Russia's high-pressure gas pipelines were commissioned before 1985, the average age of Gazprom trunk pipelines being nearly 22 years, and an estimated 14% of the pipelines are beyond their anticipated lifespans causing substantial losses...According to some estimates Gazprom will by 2008 not be able to pump all gas extracted due to the limited capacity of the firm's pipelines."
The paper also includes details of internal struggles between Gazprom and Rosneft, analysis of the Yukos affair, and how Putin has increased his grip on state monopolies by appointing members of his administration to influential business posts:
"..it is clear that not only is Putin strengthening state control over the natural monopolies, he is also strengthening direct presidential control. This is true for the energy sector.."
Ukraine imports about 1/2 its gas requirements via one sole Central Asia-Centre (CAC) pipeline, on which it is horribly dependent, from Turkmenistan, where the human rights situation is described in a recent Amnesty International report as being 'grave' and 'appalling.' The current status of this vital pipeline is considered 'existing but aged'.
So, a large portion Europe's gas supplies is controlled by a tight-knit group of ex-KGB spooks, [who in the words of Rutgers prof. Alexander Motyl in a top-class article: 'threaten[ed] a neigbour [by] depriving it of a vital natural resource.."] and is delivered by means of just a few clapped out pipelines running though countries which are likely to tap into their contents at the drop of a hat.
Oh well, Spring will soon be here..