9th Dec 2023

Spain and Belgium increased Russian LNG imports, study finds

  • Russia is the EU's second-biggest liquified natural gas (LNG) supplier (Photo: Unsplash)
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Europe imported about the same amount of Russian liquified natural gas (LNG) from January to September 2023 as it did during the same period last year — but some countries experienced notable increases.

Spain and Belgium increased imports of LNG from Russia by 50 percent during this period, year-on-year, while France saw Russian LNG imports rise by 40 percent, a report revealed on Tuesday (31 October).

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Approximately 27 percent of Spain's imported LNG for this period came from Russia, and Belgium relied even more heavily on Russia for 37 percent of its LNG. France, for its part, had 15 percent of its LNG coming from Russia.

Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the EU vowed to cut reliance on Russian fossil-fuels but quickly bumped up against concerns it was substituting one form of pollution for another.

New data from theInstitute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis' (IEEFA) LNG tracker shows that European countries are still expanding LNG infrastructure, even as LNG and gas demand are expected to dwindle.

Europe has increased its LNG capacity, with six new LNG terminals coming into operation since the beginning of 2022.

And plans for new regasification LNG terminals are set to bring Europe's LNG capacity to 406bn cubic meters (bcm).

However, LNG demand will not exceed 150bcm in 2030, revealing a potential surplus, according to the institute's forecasts.

"The decline in gas demand is challenging the narrative that Europe needs more LNG infrastructure to reach its energy security goals. The data is showing that we don't," said Ana Maria Jaller-Makarewicz, an energy analyst from the IEEFA.

"Countries in Europe risk trading a reliance on Russian pipelines for a redundant LNG system that further exposes the continent to volatile prices," she also said.

Meanwhile, the current proposed EU gas buildout of LNG infrastructure by 2030 is estimated to cost approximately €22.1bn, according to Global Energy Monitor. About €4.2bn is associated with terminals or pipelines already under construction.

EU spent €5.5bn on Russian LNG

LNG imports from the US have jumped since 2022 — making the US the EU's top supplier, accounting for 46 percent of the bloc's total supply.

But Russia comes second, providing 12 percent of LNG supply for the whole EU.

Among the EU member states, Spain is the largest importer of Russian LNG, followed closely by France and Belgium.

From January to July 2023, Spain paid €1.6bn for Russian LNG, making it the biggest buyer in the EU. France and Belgium weren't far behind, chipping in with €1.3bn each for their Russian LNG imports.

Overall, the EU spent about €5.5bn on Russian LNG, according to the IEEFA report.

Earlier this year, EU energy commissioner Kadri Simson called on member states to stop buying Russian LNG and refrain from signing new LNG agreements with Russia.

Despite calls for an embargo on Russian LNG as part of EU sanctions against Moscow, the bloc is not expected to restrict LNG imports.

This story and headline was corrected on 31 October to accurately reflect the increase in LNG imports by Spain and Belgium.

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