The construction of the main gas pipeline “Krasnodar Territory – Crimea” was envisaged by the “federal target program” “Social and economic development of the Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol until 2020” approved by the Russian government’s prescript No. 790 of August 11, 2014. The approximate length of this gas pipeline, according to the project, was 314 kilometers, and the throughput – up to 4 billion cubic meters per year [1]. On March 24, 2017, the “head” of the Crimean “parliament” Vladimir Konstantinov said that the gas pipeline, which by that time had received the common name “Kuban-Crimea”, started operating normally and reached full capacity. At the same time, the throughput capacity of the new gas pipeline was also specified – 2.2 billion cubic meters of gas per year, with the possibility of increasing it to 4.4 billion cubic meters per year. It was also stated that 2 thermal power plants, Sevastopol and Simferopol, with a capacity of 470 megawatts each, will operate on the gas supplied to Crimea [2]. So, the gas pipeline was supposed to remove at once two energy problems hanging over the occupied Crimea: to ensure a stable supply of blue fuel for the needs of the population and to generate electricity. But as it turned out, the construction of the gas pipeline only delayed the impending crisis. Associate Professor Andrii Chvalyuk will tell you more about the problem.

Despite the fact that the general level of gasification of the Crimea was quite decent before the occupation, and was estimated at 77 %, while, for example, the average Russian level is just over 70 % (for comparison, in the Irkutsk region it does not even reach 10 %), houses are still heated by imported coal in many Crimean villages, [3]. In order to increase the percentage of gasification, and at the same time to use the “budgetary funds”, the “Council of Ministers of the Republic of Crimea” adopted in 2017 a “five-year gasification program” (hereinafter – “Program”), which provided for the laying of 149 kilometers of trunk, 572.2 kilometers of inter-settlement gas pipelines, and almost 1.47 thousand kilometers of gas pipelines of street networks.

It was also planned to build and reconstruct 18 gas distribution stations and to erect 3 gas filling stations for cars. According to that “Program’s” plan, the level of gasification of the housing stock was supposed to increase from 74.4 % to 77.4 %, and natural gas should come to more than 32 thousand Crimean houses. Natural gas consumption was supposed to increase from 2.3 billion cubic meters in 2018 to 3.2 billion cubic meters in 2022 [4]. We specially cited the figures of the original text of first-planned “Program”, since later it underwent seven changes and lost some of its propaganda greatness. However, main things will be first.

“The more difficult is the struggle, the more honorable will be the victory”, this proverb characterizes well the actions of the compilers and subsequent performers of the “Program”. Initially, the “gasification plan” was planned to be implemented in one stage and completed by 2023. Indeed, why wait if “only” 15.185 billion rubles were allocated for everything, most of which, 8.47 billion, had to be provided by the Russia-controlled “state unitary enterprise” “Chernomorneftegaz”. Russian invaders planned to draw another 4.224 billion rubles from the “budget of the Republic of Crimea” [4]. But then the “federal government” got involved in the supposedly “good cause” of gasification of the settlements of the “Republic of Crimea” and the “Program” acquired at first 3.6 billion rubles of “federal appropriations”, and then – the second realization stage for 2023 – 2025.

The “municipalities’ budgets” of the “Republic of Crimea”, which were “asked to take their feasible part” in the “Program’s” implementation, also did not stand aside. Even if the relevant sums were small, but these 14 million also went to global construction projects, started by the occupation “powers” [5]. Our Association has already reported how “effectively” the executors of the “Program”, the leading role among which is occupied by the “state unitary enterprise” “Krymgazsety”, spend the funds, entrusted to them [6]. The fact that money is spent in an inappropriate way has already been proven. It remains only to find out what, in fact, the occupants had first: finances or the desire to put them in their own pockets.

In December 2020, the “Program” was under the threat of a breakdown after the “head of the Republic of Crimea” Sergey Aksyonov, who announced at the “final press conference” about a shortage of 50 billion rubles for gasification, and, according to him, 525 people need it points. Sergey Aksyonov promised to fly to Moscow in January 2021 and ask the “federal center” for money on this matter. It is not known, whether he visited the capital of Russia for this purpose or not, but in 2017 the shortage of funds for the Crimea’s “gasification program” was estimated by the Russian invaders at 40 billion rubles. Consequently, the deficit in three years increased by 10 billion, thus calling into question the implementation of the “Program” on time and in the previously planned volumes [3]. “Planned” [4] and de-facto [5] volumes of natural gas consumption in the Crimea do not coincide, and “program indicators” are moving further and further from the originally planned ones; the difference is already measured in hundreds of millions of cubic meters per year and it continues to grow. This once again confirms that the executors of the “gasification Program” are obviously unable to fulfill their own plans, no matter how much money you give them for this.

We have already written many times that the Crimean “authorities” are often involved in projects that they cannot afford, but the fake “social justification” of the work begun each time allows them not only to avoid punishment for illiterate planning, but also to receive additional funds for “correction of their own mistakes”, which are also plundered. Taking into account the facto, that the same personalities have occupied the top of the Russian invaders’ “administration” for many years, the systemic nature of these errors hints that they are part of one big plan aimed at personal enrichment of the “mistaken”. This is just the case of the “Program”. Most of its targets, such as the construction of inter-settlement gas pipelines or the construction of gas distribution stations, would be quite realistic to achieve, provided that “funding” continues to be given. But the increase in the indicator “volume of natural gas consumption” declared by the “Program’s” plan could be achieved only if there were supplies of this gas. As it “suddenly” became clear, these deliveries are weakly dependent on the Kremlin’s ambitions and the diligence of local collaborators.

In October 2019, the “head of the peninsula” Sergey Aksyonov announced plans to increase the annual production of “Crimean” gas in 2025 to 1.7 billion cubic meters, and in 2035 to 2 billion. On what exactly these bold statements were based, even then it was unclear. After all, “Chernomorneftegaz”, controlled by the aggressor-State, even then for a long time showed a decline in gas production and a lag in fulfilling production plans, which ultimately led to a string of “resignations of the previous company management” [7]. The illegal development of deposits on the Black Sea shelf by the aggressor-State and its sluggish attempts at geological exploration also did not contribute in any way to the rapid increase in gas production. After all, gas is not sand, which several dredgers, operating under the cover of Russian “border guards”, can quickly extract in Ukrainian territorial waters. You cannot start up a gas production unit in 24 hours and shut down quickly. Drilling of one well takes at least a year, and it reaches commercial production volumes not earlier than in 6-7 years.

So gas production by the invaders’ “Chernomorneftegaz” continues to decline annually. In 2014, it was 2 billion cubic meters, which gave rise to the first deputy chairman of the energy committee of the Russian State Duma, Sergei Yesyakov, to optimistically hope that the Crimea will fully provide itself with gas and even supply its surplus to Krasnodar Territory [8]. But when in 2019 production fell to 1.5 billion cubic meters, the occupants’ optimism diminished. According to experts, the gas balance in Crimea will show negative dynamics for a long time to come, since its own production does not cover consumption on the peninsula. Judging by the gasification program, there is no need to wait for an increase in blue fuel production – in 2022, production may fall to 0.9 billion cubic meters.

Several years ago, Russian-controlled “Chernomorneftegaz” planned to build a gas chemical plant capable of processing 1.5 billion cubic meters of natural gas per year. It is quite obvious that, given the declared capacity, “Chernomorneftegaz” of the invaders could not have been able to ensure its full load for a long time solely through the exploitation of its fields. Experts predict that the role of “Chernomorneftegaz” in the structure of the Crimean gas market will decrease with the strengthening of the role of the “Kuban-Crimea” gas pipeline [3]. But the following questions arise: what is the real ultimate strength of the “Kuban-Crimea” gas pipeline, that was built in a hurry, emergency order, and which state allegedly “sabotage groups’ activities” will be declared, if (or rather, when) an accident occurs.

The gas pipeline from the Kuban was built by the “Stroygazmontazh” company in record time, in fact, in a year, and it costed 20 billion rubles. It consists of three launch complexes: “Krasnodar Territory – Crimea” 137.5 kilometers long, “Kerch – Feodosia – Sovetskoye – Simferopol” with 240 kilometers, “Simferopol – Sevastopol” 56 kilometers. The main gas pipeline itself is operated by “Gazprom”, but it supplies natural gas to the “Krymgazsety” system, which is “owned by the Crimean government”. The average load of pipelines, according to the data of the “Krymgazsety” structure, already investigated by “ARC”, in 2020 ranged from 20 % to 98 % [9]. This once again confirms that some of the pipelines on the peninsula are approaching their peak capacity. And if funds are not allocated for a radical upgrade of gas transmission equipment, we predict the occurrence of accidents, since gas will be driven in large volumes through pipes that are not designed for such an increase in pressure.

A significant part of the gas transportation equipment in the Crimea has been in operation for over 40-50 years. The first string of the “Glebovka – Simferopol” gas pipeline was put into operation in September 1966 and this year it celebrated its 55th anniversary. The total length of the Crimean gas transmission system is over 1,400 kilometers. For all this to work properly, constant diagnostics must be carried out [10]. In our last article [6], we indicated how much money should be spent (or rather, simply written off) for this diagnostics by the Russian invaders. But this naturally does not solve the problem, because when the “Kuban – Crimea” gas pipeline was laid, the Russian invaders still hoped to increase their own gas production on the temporarily occupied peninsula and, in order to save money, they did not lay a pipeline with an adequate margin of safety. Now, when expectations were not met, it became necessary to increase gas supplies from outside, and everything depends on the throughput of the existing pipeline, which, as we indicated above, is designed for a maximum of 4.4 billion cubic meters per year.

You can cut branch pipelines in the Crimea for as long as you like, but if the technical conditions do not allow to increase the supplies by the main pipeline, the only way out is to stretch other pipes, which will also cost at least 20 billion rubles. At least half a billion more will have to be paid to the “lured” organizations for the development of estimates and technical documentation for the new project.

The only thing is that the Crimean “authorities” do not have much opportunity to finance gasification. In 2020, the deficit of the “republican budget” reached 2.8 billion rubles, in 2021 it increased to 13.6 billion [11]. The profits of “Chernomorneftegaz”, controlled by Russia, are falling, so they wouldn’t rely on them either [3]. It will not work to take funds from “Krymgazsety”, as they are unprofitable and they have decent accounts receivable: in 2018 it was equal to 745.7 million rubles, in 2019 – to 809.8 million. As of the beginning of 2021, the “accounts receivable of gas consumers” in Crimea amounted to 982.5 million rubles [12]. The “Crimean government” remains in the habit of begging for money from the “federal center”, or (and) it will continue to increase “tariffs for the population”. In 2015, with the consumption of blue fuel up to 6 thousand cubic meters per year, the cost of 1 thousand “cubic meters” in Crimea was in the range of 2.4-2.9 thousand rubles, in excess of 6 thousand cubic meters – 7.6-8.1 thousand rubles. For 2021, gas prices were set by the occupiers at 5.6 and 8.6 thousand rubles with a consumption value of up to or more than 3.5 thousand cubic meters per year, respectively [3].

Why do we think that Russian invaders will need a new main gas pipeline soon? Because, unlike the “officials” of the Russia-controlled “administration”, who are only capable of subtracting and dividing, we taught mathematics in school in full and can also add and multiply. If new housing is built uncontrollably for the imported Russian colonialists, who play the role of the local population in front of television cameras, if the contingent of the Russian invaders’ corps and other punishers, who also require housing and quotas in the distribution of gas and electricity, are further increased, then the number of consumers will exceed the capacity of distribution networks sooner or later, and also it will exceed the number of available and incoming energy resources.

In the meantime, the Russian invaders are squeezing the maximum out of the existing infrastructure. The reported figures of “Krymgazsety” show that the capacity of gas distribution networks is already approaching its limit and, nevertheless, gas consumption continues to grow in the Crimea. And when consumption grows and production falls, the invaders, as expected, will be inclined to the simplest solution in this situation – “turn off the valve to the full”, in the hope that the gas pipelines will withstand. The risks to human lives and to the temporarily occupied peninsula’s environment, which this aggressor’s decision carries, will naturally not be taken into account.