Geopolitics and gas-transit security through pipelines
Hydrocarbons are valuable only if they can be transited from where they are produced to where they are consumed. Despite the enduring importance of transit to the global energy system, the topic did not begin to be extensively analyzed until contentious relations between Russia and Ukraine disrupted natural gas flows to Europe in 2006. This chapter examines the geopolitics and security of transiting gas through pipelines by exploring the connection between geography, global energy strategies, and natural gas markets. Gas has grown in recent years as a percentage of global energy consumption and is helping the world transition to a cleaner energy regime. At the same time, it is intensifying the contest for and control of gas-transit routes. Russia, the world’s second-largest producer, has built new pipelines to Europe since 2006 in order to diversify its flow from relying on Ukraine, while the USA, the world’s largest gas producer, is increasingly exporting liquefied natural gas (LNG) through sea routes mostly controlled by the US navy. We argue that geostrategic calculations will more profoundly affect gas transit in the future and that countries that rely solely on market or commercial factors for their gas-transit security will become increasingly vulnerable to geopolitical volatility.