So far this month, the European Union has received U.S. natural gas volumes five times higher than Russia’s pipeline deliveries, according to Polish outlet rp.pl, the first time in history in which American LNG has surpassed Russian gas deliveries.
Last month, at least 30 tankers with liquefied natural gas from the United States were headed to Europe, where the gas and energy crisis pushed regional LNG prices way above the Asian LNG benchmark and 14 times higher than the U.S. Henry Hub price.
At the same time, Russian gas deliveries have been lower than usual in recent weeks. Low Russian supply and cold weather have been the two main drivers of rising gas prices in Europe in recent weeks when Russia’s deliveries via Poland and Ukraine have been lower than historical norms.
Low natural gas deliveries from Russia appear to have artificially tightened the European gas market, the International Energy Agency’s Executive Director Fatih Birol said on Thursday, adding that energy systems “face significant risks” by relying too much on one supplier for a key energy source.
“We see strong elements of ‘artificial tightness’ in European gas markets, which appears to be due to the behaviour of Russia’s state-controlled gas supplier,” Birol wrote in a LinkedIn post.
Even with normal winter weather conditions, Europe faces storage inventories dropping to a record low of below 15 billion cubic meters (bcm) by the end of March, Wood Mackenzie said on Thursday.
“Without additional Russian imports, the ability to refill depleted storage and to avoid a repeat of last year’s crisis will be limited. But Gazprom has so far been reluctant to make more gas available on the existing routes. And the start-up of Nord Stream 2 remains the big unknown as Gazprom navigates regulatory approvals. Political relations remain fragile as Russian troops amass along the Ukrainian border,” said Kateryna Filippenko, principal analyst, European gas research, at WoodMac.