On the third day of the world’s biggest energy conference, the spotlight will pick out natural gas amid debate on its role in the transition to cleaner energy – and it’s status as a Russian export key to Europe’s power generation needs.
U.S. President Joseph Biden announced a ban on Russian oil imports Tuesday in the wake of its invasion of Ukraine. But natural gas may be the more crucial export, as Russia has more proven natural gas reserves than any other nation.
At this year’s CERAWeek conference in Houston, panellists have stressed a greater need for a secure energy supply. While world crude markets have been roiled by the U.S. decision to stop importing Russian oil, Asian and European gas markets have been in turmoil since last year as Russia slowed pipeline flows.
That spurred a U.S.-led effort to secure more supply via liquefied natural gas (LNG) cargoes for Europe earlier this year, U.S. State Department Senior Advisor Amos Hochstein told the audience in Houston on Tuesday. He said that energy “is the card (Russian President Vladimir) Putin thinks he has to intimidate his neighbours.”
Russia calls its actions in Ukraine a “special operation”.
LNG terminals for liquefaction and re-gasification take years to build, and the United States is currently exporting all it can work in LNG. CERAWeek attendees on Wednesday will be keen to hear from Charif Souki, chairman of LNG developer Tellurian, and Michael Smith of Freeport LNG, along with U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm.
Nearly 90% of Russia’s natural gas exports go to Europe and parts of Asia. Half of that alone go to Germany, Italy, France and Belarus.
A source familiar with the White House’s thinking said the Biden administration is mulling how much to cooperate with the U.S. natural gas industry, wary that environmentalists would see any outreach as a capitulation on reducing reliance on fossil fuels.
While the European Union has not elected to stop buying Russian gas – Russia is still sending natural gas to Europe via the original Nord Stream 1 natural gas pipe – Britain on Tuesday said it will phase out purchases of Russian oil and gas.
According to U.S. Energy Department figures, that nation accounted for about 4 per cent of Russian gas exports in 2021.