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Am new to this.

I was reading New Geopolitics of natural gas by Agnia and came across this paragraph :

because gas historically had been supplied primarily by land-based pipeline monopolies rather than by competing ship tankers moving in any direction across the seas, gas-importing countries have had to rely on a limited number of suppliers. As a result, until recently, many countries, especially in Central and Eastern Europe and the Caucasus, have been 100 percent dependent on a single gas pipeline, a single gas-producing country, and even a single company, such as the Russian gas giant Gazprom. Meanwhile, gas-producing countries such as Russia have likewise been dependent on a fixed set of pipeline export routes and consumers. Then, too, with other states serving as transit territories for the pipelines carrying gas from producing to importing countries, these territorially driven gas trade relationships have impacted national, regional, and international politics.

Why are pipeline export routes considered fixed? Are they expensive? Does its erection damage the land in ways relevant to new routes or something?

At the same time, I also wondered why don't gas producers make their own shippers instead of being depend on transite states? Because of the benefits of specialisation? Are they the exception; were they simply fast enough.

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    $\begingroup$ Hush, that's bloody politics, not earth science :-) $\endgroup$ – user20217 May 15 '20 at 8:55
  • $\begingroup$ This question is off topic here, but pipelines are expensive, so the fewer that can be constructed, the cheaper the cost of the infrastructure. Pipelines cannot be easily moved. Regarding the environment, above ground pipelines can disrupt migration routes for wild life, by acting a barriers. As for shipping, gas ships are expensive, so are the gas storage facilities at the port of origin & destination. Sometimes this may require huge refrigeration plants to liquefy the gas. Apart from the Black & Baltic Sea ports, Russia does not have year round ice free ports required for gas exports. $\endgroup$ – Fred May 15 '20 at 19:39
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Building a pipeline simply is an expensive undertaking. In Eastern Germany e.g. there's one built right now, the EUGAL-pipeline. It will be about 480 km long (check the English fact sheet) and, according to the governments response to a question by a member of parliament from May 2018 (in German only) those 480 km cost about 2,276 million Euro (see top of page 2 in the PDF). So, one kilometer of pipeline costs about 4.7 million Euros - yes, pipelines are expensive.

To be fair, labour cost in Germany is rather high, and if you check the following image you'll see that the pipeline is buried which I suppose increases the cost significantly.

cranes lifting the pipeline into the trench Copyright 2015, GASCADE Gastransport GmbH

Still, building a pipeline is not cheap - moneywise, timewise and when it comes to environmental impact.


Furthermore, a pipeline can have political implications. E.g. the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines which run from northwestern Russia (close to St. Petersburg) to northeastern Germany even made the US intervene. The old pipelines from Russia to Central Europe run through the Eastern European countries, most notably the Ukraine - and currently politics between Russia and the Ukraine are rather sour. So bypassing transit countries enforces the Russian position - which in turn angered the US since they want to reduce Russian influence on Europe (and sell their own shale gas, but that's another issue).


To summarize: Pipelines are very expensive, and it also takes a great deal of negotiation (politically and environmentally) to build one. So yes, they are rather fixed.

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In addition to answer #1 : Even in the US where there are not obstructions of international politics, There are always some protest groups who object to every possible pipeline route. One example, Aleska pipeline across Alaska, basically no towns or people involved, but it was delayed years by protests. The new pipe laid on the ground for over 3 years waiting on permits ;A whole new technology was developed to recondition the new pipe for construction. And shipping by the only other ( quantity) possibility , LNG tanker is more expensive , limited availability, and a relatively recent development .

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