In France, gas tanks are filling at high speed

Thanks to the massive imports of liquefied natural gas, European countries are increasing their gas stocks for the coming winter. And is preparing 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 through a gas pipeline. At the same time, the continent’s imports of liquefied natural gas are at record highs. Since March and the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, Europe has absorbed 60% of LNG exports worldwide.

According to the International Group of LNG Importers (GIIGNL), LNG imports increased by 56%. At sea, this results in massive arrivals of LNG carriers in Europe. They have increased on average from 85 to 135 landing each month on the coasts, mainly of Portugal, Spain and Great Britain. There, the terminals, which convert LNG into a gaseous state, were running at 30% and have 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 through France throughout Europe. For example, the French gas storage operator Storengy, a subsidiary of Engie, fills its tanks quickly. Inventory levels were at their lowest level in March at 25%. It’s already gone to 35%. “At this rate, the tanks will be full by September, a source close to Engie assures us. And we’ll get through the winter without too much trouble.”

The LNG comes from “Qatar and the United States,” Engie chief executive Catherine MacGregor said on Thursday. The United States are the big winners of the Russian crisis that is pushing Europeans to buy LNG from them. “The liquefaction plants in the Gulf of Mexico are running at 100%,” confirms Vincent Demoury. American gas comes mainly from shale gas sources, but it has not caused controversy in Europe.

LNG tankers diverted from China to Europe

Some of the LNG tankers also come from Asia, especially China, which bought a lot of LNG cargoes last year. But the rise in gas prices in Europe, coupled with the Russian crisis, is forcing many Chinese operators, such as Sinopec and Petrochina, to “redirect” several dozen ships to European countries to resell LNG to them. “This rhythm cannot last all year, because at some point, Asia will have to keep its supplies for its consumption,” explains Vincent Demoury, GIIGNL’s general manager.

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 reduce its dependence on Russian gas, which accounts for 40% of its supplies.

Matthew Pechberty Journalist BFM Business