28th May 2023

Russian liquid gas sales to EU jump despite war

  • "Weaponisation of gas supplies by Russia" has redrawn energy markets in Europe (Photo:
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Overall EU gas supplies from Russia are at all-time lows, but imports of Russian liquid gas (LNG) have jumped up despite the war.

That was the picture painted in an internal EU "background note on winter preparedness" circulated to energy ministers last week and now seen by EUobserver.

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Russian gas is not under EU sanctions, but supplies plunged by more than half last year due to "weaponisation of gas supplies by Russia", the note said.

"Current import levels are however far lower," it added.

"Russian pipeline imports' share in total EU gas imports dropped to 7 percent in January 2023 from around 50 percent historically" and "flows from Ukraine reduced by approximatively 80 percent in March", it said.

The EU got through last year's winter by squirrelling away supplies during summer and seeking new sources.

"Increased alternative pipeline imports from Algeria, Azerbaijan, and Norway will strengthen our diversification efforts with projected imports of 36 bcm [billion cubic metres], 11.5 bcm, and 90 bcm in 2023, respectively," the EU memo forecast.

The EU has also cut down on gas consumption by some 20 percent since pre-war times and hopes to be ready for next winter even if Russian president Vladimir Putin goes further in his dirty tricks.

"Storage inventory could reach 90 bcm (90 percent) by the end of October, even assuming no pipeline supplies from Russia," the EU officials estimated.

"Risks include a complete Russian gas stop, infrastructure incidents, an exceptionally dry or warm summer affecting the functioning of nuclear power plants during summer and limited hydropower supply, or a cold winter," they warned.

The EU briefing note also said: "LNG played a central role in the replacement of Russian gas with an increase of imports from 80 bcm in 2021 to 135 bcm in 2022".

The EU was building another 50 bcm of LNG infrastructural capacity by 2024, it added.

But the figures showed Russia itself was increasingly using that capacity to squeeze out alternative LNG suppliers, in what some EU countries have branded as illogical.

"Russian LNG imports have increased over the year 2022 from 15.9 bcm in 2021 to 22.1 bcm," the EU note said.

The EU consumes about 400 bcm a year of gas in total and the background note called the increase "rather modest".

But this still represented a 38 percent jump in the volumes of Russian LNG now coming to the EU despite the war.

The EU has so far imposed 10 rounds of sanctions on Russia, including a ban on Russian oil.

EU energy ministers last week also discussed new single market rules to curb Russian LNG exports, but stopped far short of any LNG embargo.

"You build the infrastructure [LNG] to get rid of the supplier [Russia] who manipulated your [pipeline-gas] markets and caused great difficulties to you — and then you accept the same supplier through LNG? There's something wrong with the logic," Lithuanian energy minister Albinas Zananavičius told Reuters at the time.


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