Spain and Belgium have significantly increased their imports of Russian liquefied natural gas (LNG) in 2023 compared to the previous year, with a growth rate of 50%, according to a report by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA). This surge in imports can be attributed to the widening gap between the European Union’s (EU) LNG capacity and demand.
The IEEFA report, published on Tuesday, highlighted that European imports of Russian LNG remained steady between January and September, compared to the same period in 2022. It also noted that terminals in Belgium and France continued to ship LNG from Russia’s Yamal project.
During the first seven months of 2023, the EU spent a total of €41 billion ($44 billion) on LNG imports, with the largest beneficiaries being the US (€17.2 billion), Russia (€5.5 billion), and Qatar (€5.4 billion), according to the report. This data challenges the prevailing narrative that Europe needs to invest in more LNG infrastructure to achieve its energy security goals.
“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 IEEFA analyst Ana Maria Jaller-Makarewicz. She further cautioned that the growing reliance on Russian pipelines for a redundant LNG system exposes the continent to volatile prices.
It is worth noting that while the EU has banned imports of Russian seaborne oil since the beginning of the Ukraine conflict and has significantly reduced shipments of pipeline gas from Moscow, LNG imports have so far gone unsanctioned despite repeated calls from several EU officials.
The increase in Spanish and Belgian imports of Russian LNG reflects a broader trend of growing global demand for this energy resource. Russia, being one of the major exporters of LNG, has been capitalizing on this increased demand.
By expanding its LNG exports, Russia aims to strengthen its position in the global energy market and boost its export revenue. The country’s LNG projects, such as the Yamal project, have played a crucial role in meeting this rising demand and supplying energy to European countries.
However, this increased reliance on Russian LNG raises concerns regarding energy security. While LNG imports provide an alternative to pipeline gas, they still leave the EU vulnerable to price fluctuations and supply disruptions.
In conclusion, Spain and Belgium have seen a significant increase in their imports of Russian LNG in 2023. The IEEFA report highlights the widening gap between the EU’s LNG capacity and demand, driving up imports from Russia. Despite progress in reducing gas consumption, the reliance on Russian pipelines and redundant LNG systems exposes Europe to volatile prices. The EU’s ban on Russian seaborne oil and reduced pipeline gas shipments have not been extended to LNG imports. This surge in Russian LNG imports reflects global demand for this energy resource, and Russia aims to capitalize on the growing market. However, it also raises concerns about energy security and the EU’s vulnerability to price fluctuations and supply disruptions.