US overtook Russia as biggest gas exporter to Europe in June

Nearly half of Europe's gas imports came from America in 2022, research shows

An LNG tanker is guided by tug boats in Louisiana before being exported from the US
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The US has overtaken Russia as the biggest exporter of liquefied natural gas to Europe after the war in Ukraine led to a major energy crunch.

Gas shipped from the US now accounts for nearly half of Europe's LNG imports following a significant decline in the amount delivered by pipeline by Russia.

The US provided 47 per cent of Europe's total LNG imports in the first half of the year, according to figures by the US Energy Information Administration. Its analysis also showed that LNG imports in the EU and UK increased by 63 per cent during the first half of 2022.

Between the start of the year and June, the US exported about 57 bullion cubic metres of gas, with 39 billion cubic metres, or 68 per cent, going to Europe, further data provided by Refinitiv showed.

That is significantly higher than US President Joe Biden's promise to add 15 billion cubic meters of LNG for Europe this year amid the war in Ukraine.

The EU imported 21.36 million tonnes of LNG in the first half of 2022, up from 8.21 million tonnes in the same period a year ago.

European governments are desperately attempting to fill up gas reserves before the winter, amid fears that Russia will cut its supply pipelines.

Last week, Gazprom cut shipments on the Nordstream pipeline to Germany to 20 per cent of capacity, citing issues with turbines. This sent gas prices to the highest levels since March — during the first weeks of Russia’s war in Ukraine.

“Europe remains dependent on two things: how cold the winter will be and how Russian flows will evolve into spring,” said UBS oil analyst Giovanni Staunovo. “Uncertainty on both will likely keep prices supported even if inventories keep rising over the coming months.”

European governments fear Russia's cut in supplies through its main gas pipeline to Germany and are building up gas reserves by curbing demand, switching from gas to coal for some power plants and increasing imports of LNG.

The European Commission has since recommended that member states cut their reliance on gas and recommended a reduction of 15 per cent from August 1.

The bloc also aims to set gas capacity to 80 per cent by November to provide a buffer for peak demand winter months.

Germany, hardest-hit by Russia's reduced gas flows, has set a higher goal for itself and aims to be 95 per cent full by November.

European gas storage levels were 70.54 per cent full on Tuesday, surpassing the five-year average, according to data from Gas Infrastructure Europe released on Thursday.

Simone Tagliapietra, senior fellow at think tank Bruegel estimates that Europe would have to spend €26 billion to fill up gas storage to 80 per cent from current levels.

Jacob Mandel from Aurora Energy Research estimated the total cost of gas injected into EU storage since the introduction of the targets in June was about €19.8 billion, assuming that all gas injected into storage has been and would be purchased at spot prices at the Dutch TTF hub.

He expected that an extra €35.5 billion was now needed to fill EU storage to the targets, bringing the total to more than €55 billion.

“I would also estimate an additional €300 million to €600 million for the cost of using the storage,” he said.

The cost of filling up the storage could be passed to consumers by ever higher energy bills or through taxation, analysts said.

The European Commission, the EU executive, proposed last month a target for all member states to cut gas use by 15 per cent from Aug. 1

Updated: August 04, 2022, 12:41 PM