January 4, 2023

EU LNG imports reach all-time highs in December and 2022

EU LNG imports reached monthly and annual all-time highs in December and 2022 as the bloc increasingly relies on LNG to replace most of the lost Russian pipeline supplies.

The European Union imported around 9.34 mt of LNG in December and a total of 94.73 mt in 2022, Kpler data show. This compares to 5.71 mt in December 2021 and 57.27 mt in all of 2021.

The US represented roughly a third of supplies in December and 41% in all of 2022, and stayed the EU’s top LNG supplier. In March, the European Commission and the US agreed to boost LNG deliveries to the bloc by at least 15 bn m3 (11.13 mt) in 2022. US-only supplies to the bloc rose by 23.59 mt (31.8 bn m3) year on year to 38.86 mt in 2022.

Russia overtook Qatar as the bloc’s second-largest LNG supplier in 2022, boosting its exports to the bloc by 4.13 mt year on year to 15.12 mt. Almost all of it came from plants owned by independent producer Novatek.

Qatar came third exporting 13.45 mt to the EU, a 1.66 mt year-on-year increase.

African deliveries to the bloc rose by 2.87 mt year on year to 19.72 mt, over 80% of which came from Nigeria, Algeria and Egypt combined. Nigerian and Algerian supplies dropped but Egypt more than tripled its exports to the EU compared to 2021. Angola also more than tripled its supplies year on year to 1.81 mt, and Mozambique became an exporter in November and sent its first cargos to the EU.

Norwegian exports to the bloc rose to 2.29 mt, about 15 times more than in 2021, mostly due to the restart of the country's largest plant in June. A fire had shut it down since September 2020.

Supplies from Latin American countries rose by 1 mt year on year to 2.78 mt, 90% of which came from Trinidad and Tobago.

Just under 1 mt came from Asia, including Oman, the UAE, Indonesia, China, and South Korea, against 0.03 mt in 2021. Australian exports to the EU tripled year on year to 0.1 mt.

EU-27 Monthly Imports (Mt) - Source: Kpler

Among EU importers, France overtook Spain as the top importer despite having less import capacity. France also showed the sharpest year-on-year increase among EU importers. It imported 24.9 mt, or over a quarter of all EU imports in 2022, almost double the volumes it imported the year prior. France has more pipeline connections with its neighbours than Spain does and so it can more easily export regasified LNG.

That was particularly the case when pipeline flows from France to Germany started on Oct. 13. Flows had historically only been from Germany to France as Germany used to receive abundant pipeline supplies from Russia. French LNG imports averaged 2.3 mt per month in October-December, a rise from 2 mt a month in January-September. At the same time, French piped exports to Germany averaged 114 m m3 a month (84,440 t) in October-December, data from the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Gas (ENTSOG) show.

Germany is struggling to replace the lost Russian supplies which represented around half of its gas supplies prior to 2022. Germany launched its first LNG terminal in December importing 0.08 mt that month.

Spain was the bloc’s second-largest importer, receiving 21.16 mt or 2% of the bloc’s supplies. This was a 40% increase compared to 2021. Spain has the largest LNG import capacity in the EU but only has pipeline interconnectors with Portugal and France. It sent 2.5 bn m3 of pipeline gas to France last year, five times more than the year prior.

The Netherlands came third among the largest EU LNG importers and it also has the bloc’s third-largest import capacity. Last year, the country doubled both its import capacity to around 17.8 mtpa and its imports to 12 mt. It launched its second LNG terminal in Eemshaven in September, boosting its imports to a monthly average of 1.17 mt in September-December from 0.91 mt a month in January-August.

Italy and Belgium ranked fourth and fifth. Italy gathered 10.43 mt, a 50% increase from 2021, while Belgium received 9.9 mt, or more than double its imports the year prior.

Polish imports rose by 50% year on year to 4.45 mt. In mid-May, Russia cut supplies to the EU via the Yamal-Europe pipeline which crosses Poland. Polish LNG imports rose to a monthly average of 0.42 mt in May-December, from 0.27 mt a month in January-April and 0.24 mt a  month in 2021.

Lithuanian imports jumped by 86% year on year to 2.2 mt. Lithuania’s LNG import capacity is important for the other Baltic States which do not have a terminal of their own and have historically been heavily dependent on Russian piped gas. Lithuania’s piped exports to its neighbour Latvia rose to an all-time high of 1.1 bn m3 in 2022.

Greek imports rose by 64% to 2.76 mt, as the regional importance of Greece's import capacity increased, particularly for Bulgaria which stopped receiving Russian piped supplies in late April and has no terminal of its own. Deliveries into Greece averaged 0.25 mt a month in May-December, from 0.19 mt a month in January-April and 0.14 mt a month in 2021.

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