In order to compensate for the drop in imports of Russian natural gas, Europe turned in 2022 to other producing countries, but of liquefied natural gas (LNG). And particularly to the United States, which has become the EU’s leading supplier. American imports literally exploded in 2022: +143% compared to 2021, according to the report by the think tank IEEFA (Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis) published on Wednesday 11 January.
Figures that confirm previous data – +137% over the first 11 months of 2022 – released in early January by the analysis company Kpler. The United States alone supplied more than half of EU countries’ LNG imports. A boom which in passing enabled it to become the world’s leading exporter of LNG during the first half of the year, overtaking Australia and Qatar.
In total, the European Union imported 155 billion m3 of LNG in 2022, i.e. 60% more than in 2021. Beyond the loss of Russian natural gas, this increase in imports was all the more necessary because of a “lack of rain which has reduced hydroelectric production in EU countries” or even “breakdowns in nuclear power plants in France”, points out the report.
Russian natural gas replaced by Russian LNG…
Behind the United States, the largest suppliers of LNG to the EU in 2022 were Qatar (+23%) and Russia (+12%). “While deliveries of Russian natural gas to the European Union (EU) decreased in 2022, some countries continued to import Russian LNG, acting against the common goal of ensuring energy security and the end of dependence on Russian resources,” indicates the IEEFA.
France has been the main importer of Russian LNG to Europe, according to the report. Together, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain show a 55% increase in their imports compared to 2021.
Other countries such as Croatia, Lithuania, Portugal, Sweden and Great Britain have sharply reduced their imports of Russian LNG in 2022. Great Britain has been Qatar’s number one customer.
No fears for this winter, but for the next one
In December, the IEA warned that in the event of a total stoppage of Russian gas deliveries and without efforts to reduce its needs, the EU could run out of gas in the winter of 2023/2024. However, this should not be the case: the mild autumn has delayed the ignition of the boilers.
And it is clear that Europeans have also greatly reduced their energy consumption: -20% of gas in the EU from August to November, compared to the previous five years, according to Eurostat. According to estimates by the International Energy Agency (IEA), the EU’s total gas consumption could reach 360 billion m3 in 2022, significantly less than in 2021 at 412 billion m3.
For the winter of 2023/2024, there will be no more Russian gas to replenish reserves in spring and summer. If it is very cold in January and February, more LNG will have to be purchased and ” the fight “ Europe-Asia will intensify, Laura Page, gas specialist at energy data provider Kpler, told AFP. “There is not enough gas in the world to replace Russian gas”, abounds Graham Freedman.
It is only around 2025 or 2026 that new LNG projects, especially in Qatar, will produce millions of additional tons. In Europe, 26 new terminals have been announced on the continent, including a fifth in France in Le Havre, according to Global Energy Monitor, which fears that this will create a new dependence on gas, when Europe wants to switch to renewables.
LNG: imports to Europe jumped 60% in 2022, including from Russia