US. LNG Cannot Replace The Russian Natural Gas That Europe Has Lost

  • Europe has relied on U.S. LNG imports to offset the loss of Russian gas, with nearly 70% of U.S. LNG exports heading to Europe in September.
  • In the long term, Europe will have to find other sources of natural gas as its inventories are likely to drain over the upcoming winter.
  • Ultimately, Europe will have to reduce demand for natural gas going forward as there is very little available supply left.

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Europe cannot rely solely on imports of U.S. LNG to offset the pipeline gas supply it will have lost from Russia when it starts rebuilding inventories after the end of this winter, according to BloombergNEF.

So far this year, American LNG has been crucial in meeting demand in Europe, which is scrambling for gas supply and willing to pay up for spot deliveries, outbidding most of Asia.

The United States is shipping record volumes of LNG to Europe to help EU allies and nearly 70% of all American LNG exports were headed to Europe in September, according to Refinitiv Eikon data cited by Reuters.  

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However, the significant drop in Russian gas supply this year occurred only in June, meaning that Europe could still stock up on some Russian gas earlier this year.

Ahead of the 2023/2024 winter, however, the gap in gas supply in Europe will be much wider without Russian gas. Europe will not be importing much Russian gas—or none at all if Russia cuts off deliveries via the one link left operational via Ukraine and via TurkStream—compared to relatively stable imports from Russia in the first half of this year, before Moscow started gradually cutting volumes via Nord Stream in June until shutting down the pipeline in early September.

“The year-on-year increase is not sufficient to offset a total cut in Russian piped supply with under half of these volumes met by LNG increases,” BNEF analyst Arun Toora said.

“The good news is that Russia looks close to having played its last card in terms of gas leverage over Europe. However Europe’s challenges will not disappear with the daffodils next spring,” London-based consultancy Timera Energy said in a winter gas market outlook at the beginning of October.

Without most of the Russian gas supply, Europe will likely need to offset around 40 bcm of additional lost Russian flows next year. LNG alone cannot meet this volume, considering a lack of new global liquefaction capacity in the short-term, including in the U.S., limited further demand elasticity in Asia, and European re-gasification capacity constraints. Therefore, European demand will need to fall, Timera Energy said.