Thanks to massive imports of liquefied natural gas, European countries are increasing their gas stocks for next winter. And prepares the embargo on Russian gas.
This is the paradox of the Russian crisis: Europe has never imported so much gas. The giant Gazprom continues to supply European countries by gas pipeline. At the same time, imports of liquefied natural gas into the continent are at record highs. Since March and the outbreak of war in Ukraine, Europe has absorbed 60% of LNG exports worldwide.
Its LNG imports soared by 56%, according to the international group of LNG importers (GIIGNL). On the seas, this results in massive arrivals of LNG tankers in Europe. They have increased, on average, from 85 to 135 who land each month on the coasts, mainly of Portugal, Spain and Great Britain. There, the terminals, which retransform LNG into a gaseous state, were operated at 30% and doubled their capacity.
Stocks filled from September
These two countries also have the highest stock fill rates in Europe: 88% in Portugal and 62% in Spain. The gas then goes up throughout Europe, via France. Thus, the French gas storage operator, Storengy, a subsidiary of Engie, also quickly fills its tanks. Inventory levels were at their lowest level in March, at 25%. It has already gone to 35%. “At this rate, the tanks will be full in September, assures a source close to Engie, who wants to be reassuring. And we will manage to get through the winter without great difficulty”.
The LNG comes from “Qatar and the United States”, explained Thursday the general manager of Engie, Catherine MacGregor. The United States are the big winners of the Russian crisis which is pushing Europeans to buy LNG from them. “The liquefaction plants in the Gulf of Mexico are at 100% capacity,” confirms Vincent Demoury. American gas comes mainly from shale gas wells but does not create controversy in Europe.
LNG tankers rerouted from China to Europe
Some of the LNG carriers also come from Asia, particularly China, which bought a lot of LNG cargoes last year. But the surge in gas prices in Europe, linked to the Russian crisis, is pushing many Chinese operators, such as Sinopec and Petrochina, to “reroute” several dozen ships to European countries to resell LNG to them. “This rhythm cannot last all year because, at some point, Asia will need to keep its deliveries for its consumption”, explains Vincent Demoury, the general manager of GIIGNL.
From next year, Europe will have to compensate for this “Chinese withdrawal”. Germany plans to build four floating LNG terminals in the North Sea to start reducing its dependence on Russian gas, which accounts for 40% of its supplies.