What Threats Does Russian Liquefied Natural Gas Pose to Ukraine and World?

Monday, 25 September 2023

Despite a general reduction in natural gas consumption in the EU and significant progress in developing renewable energy sources, European countries have increased their liquefied natural gas (LNG) imports by 60% in 2022 to compensate for the reduction in pipeline gas supplies from Russia.

However, a significant portion of LNG is still supplied from Russia. Concerns related to this are outlined in a column by the founder of Razom We Stand, Svitlana Romanko, Sanctions Against Russian Liquefied Natural Gas: Why It Matters for Victory and Climate.

According to the author, the private company Novatek, owned by Russian oligarchs Leonid Mikhelson and Gennady Timchenko, is the primary supplier of Russian LNG to the EU and international markets.

Mikhelson and Timchenko, as Svitlana Romanko reminds us, are close associates of Russian President Vladimir Putin. They have gained control over the assets of international companies involved in Russian oil and gas projects with the support of his regime.

Novatek is currently implementing the Arctic LNG-2 project. It aims to significantly increase the sales of Russian LNG internationally and could double the export capacity of the conglomerate, warns the expert.

According to official statements published on March 9, 2023, Russia plans to nearly triple its LNG export capacity by 2030, from current 35 million tons per year to 100 million tons per year.

"If the EU does not ban Russian liquefied natural gas, Russia will gain additional resources to continue the war against Ukraine. Additionally, this will have terrible consequences for the climate," says the founder of Razom We Stand.

According to her, despite sanctions, numerous investigations, and public pressure, the French oil company Total Energies continues to purchase Russian liquefied natural gas and maintain stakes in joint ventures with Novatek. In 2023, Total Energies is the second-largest buyer of Russian LNG, purchasing over 10% of supplies from the Yamal LNG terminal, which Total partly owns.

Total Energy's partnership with Novatek, despite public denial statements, continued throughout 2023, even when evidence emerged that Novatek was sponsoring Russian private military units and mercenaries involved in war crimes in Ukraine.

"Despite declaring responsibility for emissions reduction and climate change prevention, Total contradicts these statements by participating in the dangerous expansion of the destructive Russian gas industry for the climate," the columnist asserts.

European Union governments must take decisive actions to eliminate the import of Russian LNG, the expert believes.

In 2022, Russia's exports to the EU accounted for just over 3% of the global LNG market. It rules out the possibility of a sharp price increase after banning Russian LNG imports and disrupting the Arctic LNG-2 project, as the EU has successfully reduced gas demand and replaced it with renewable energy sources, as shown in a new report by CREA.

Meanwhile, on September 14, the US Treasury Department expanded its sanctions list, including Arctic Transshipment — a joint venture between the private Russian gas conglomerate Novatek and French Total Energies, which owns a 10% stake.

Arctic Transshipment owns two floating storage units for LNG: Saam LNG and Koryak LNG. These two massive vessels are based near the port of Murmansk in northern Russia and the Kamchatka Peninsula in the Russian Far East, serving as transshipment points for LNG at sea.

Sanctions, imposed to limit the flow of Russian LNG to Europe, are crucial to depriving Russia of the economic resources that fuel its aggression against Ukraine.

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