The Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24 led to various discussions and crises in the energy sector. As the already high gas prices increased, European countries started to look for solutions on how to fill their warehouses and produce an alternative to Russian gas. The European Union countries took a joint decision and promised to stop buying gas from Russia before 2030. This promise, which is not easy to fulfil, also causes pressure on the energy side of the sanctions discussed to be applied to Russia. While European countries are looking for an alternative to Russian gas in various regions of the Middle East, Central Asia and Africa, their closest and least politically problematic supplier, Norway, stands out as a logical solution.
Norway is one of the world's largest energy exporters and a global advocate for climate change mitigation. Norway has set a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 40% of 1990 levels by 2030 and become a low-carbon society by 2050. On the other hand, hydropower is one of Norway's primary sources of electricity generation. Since the late 1800s, hydroelectric power has been one of Norway's most significant energy sources since the energy in waterfalls and rivers has been used for power generation. Renewable energy covers 98 percent of electricity production in Norway. Thermal energy and wind energy also occupy a large area at this rate, which is high compared to Europe. Norway, which has the offshore wind energy opportunity that almost all of Europe has, also has the potential to increase green hydrogen with offshore wind. Today, 20 to 25 percent of the natural gas used by the European Union is supplied by Norway through large pipelines located under the North Sea.
In 2021, European Union countries imported 155 billion cubic meters of Russian gas, which constitutes about 40 percent of the natural gas they use. In the same year, Norway's natural gas production reached 113 billion cubic meters, meeting about a quarter of the UK's natural gas demand. Minister of Petroleum and Energy of Norway Terje Lien Aasland stated that Norway should remain the main energy supplier to Europe and indicated that Norway could provide additional gas to compensate for the decline in Russia's natural gas deliveries due to the war between Russia and Ukraine. He stated that one of the critical points here is that no situation will cause difficulties in managing Norway's oil reserves. After Russia stopped natural gas shipments to Poland and Bulgaria, 10 billion cubic meters of gas purchased by Poland from Russia will be replaced by Norway's North Sea gas fields situation can be considered the basis of the Minister of Petroleum and Energy of Norway's words. This situation is an important opportunity for Norway, the world's third-largest gas exporter. On the other hand, the European Union's plan to reduce its dependence on Russian natural gas by two-thirds based on increased imports of liquefied natural gas also depends on alternative pipeline gas suppliers supplying an additional 10 billion cubic meters per year. Although this plan, announced by the European Commission, is a response to Russia's ongoing aggression against Ukraine for about 2 months and the Russian government's frequently voiced threats to restrict and cut off the natural gas flow to Europe, Western Europe's largest oil and natural gas producer Norway have come to the fore with the questions of increasing their production capacity and how much they can fill the gap that would have to be filled in the absence of Russian gas.
While the Norwegian oil and gas fields produce at approximately 100% capacity, it is possible to adjust the oil and gas mixture in some cases. The government can set quotas in certain areas to ensure that production in the country peaks over time. Norway, the world's seventh-largest natural gas producer, pumps around 4 million barrels per day, almost equally between oil and natural gas. It exports approximately 95% of the natural gas it produces through a vast submarine pipeline connecting to terminals in Germany, England, France and Belgium. A new pipe for Poland is expected to be completed this year. On the other hand, considering that Norway's oil and gas fields are already producing at maximum capacity, there are certain difficulties in increasing natural gas supply to Europe. Nikoline Bromander, an analyst at Oslo-based company Rystad Energy, says Norway expects its total natural gas production to increase to 126.5 billion cubic meters this year. However, there are also thoughts that this growth will not be sustainable. Some of Norway's gas fields, including the Trol under the North Sea, are thought to decline over the next decade. Even if the government achieves significant results by approving new discoveries, these discoveries do not seem to be able to compensate for the decline in production quickly.