Western European Russian LNG imports have risen drastically since war began

An LNG tanker.
An LNG tanker. Source: ERR

While the European Union has drastically cut its dependency on Russian natural gas since the invasion of Ukraine began, consumption of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) has in fact soared during that time.

Estonia's European commissioner, Kadri Simson (Center), who holds the energy portfolio, said: "It is a fact that Russia, having cut off nearly 90-100 billion cubic meters of pipeline gas, has replaced some of it with a greater capacity to produce LNG and has exported it, not to its historical markets in Central and Eastern Europe, but instead to LNG terminals on the west coast of Europe."

In 2021, before the full-scale invasion of Ukraine began, EU member states imported 13.5 billion cubic meters of LNG from Russia; for the first half of this year alone, the figure was 10.8 billion cubic meters.

Conversely with natural gas, Simson noted that while EU countries used to depend on Russian gas to up to 40 percent of its consumption, this figure has now dropped to 10 percent.

The main importers of Russian LNG are France, Spain, Belgium, all countries which had not been highly dependent on Russian pipeline gas before the war.

At the same time, Simson noted that Russia is not the sole supplier of LNG to these and other countries – the U.S. is another – and with Europe's gas storage volumes at capacity ahead of the winter, if consensus is reached among member states, it might be viable to abandon Russian LNG altogether.

As a consensus has not been reached yet, however, Simson said a package has been offered which gives member states' governments the right to restrict the arrival of tankers carrying Russian LNG.

The commissioner added she hopes an agreement is reached before year-end.

Javad Keypour, PhD student-junior researcher at Tallinn University of Technology (TalTech) Department of Law and an expert on the LNG market, says that Russia is not the sole source of the LNG consumed by the Western European member states – for instance, Belgium says that only 2.8 percent of its consumption is of Russian origin, while it and also Spain have been re-exporting to other member states.

Nonetheless, the above countries, and also the Netherlands, Greece, Portugal, Finland and Sweden, are still consuming Russian LNG. 

Keypour said that part of the reason is the fact that Russian LNG is cheaper.

A blanket ban might also not be wise, he added – since it could lead to a rise in oil prices, as oil would be sought as an alternative – and this could benefit Russia as an oil producer, too.

The current incremental path for reducing dependence on Russian LNG is among the better of all possible solutions, Keypour added.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Mirjam Mäekivi

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