EU imports of Russian liquified natural gas soar 40% since invasion of Ukraine

Oil and gas field in the Russian Arctic.
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This article was updated at 11am on Thursday 28 September to reflect a correction. The headline previously read “EU imports of Russian gas soar 40% since invasion of Ukraine”. This was not strictly accurate, as it is only imports of liquified natural gas that have risen – imports of gas overall have fallen. We apologise for any confusion caused. 

New research has revealed that the European Union (EU) has raised its imports of Russian liquified natural gas (LNG) by 40% since it began its brutal invasion in Ukraine. Moreover, in the first seven months of 2023, EU countries ploughed €5.3bn into buying up over half the Russia’s total supply.

Research and campaign nonprofit Global Witness produced the analysis. The organisation highlighted the hypocrisy of the soaring imports, which it said is “lining Putin’s pockets”.

LNG from Russia

Global Witness found that between January and July 2023, the EU has purchased 22 million cubic meters of LNG from Russia. LNG is a form of fossil gas that companies cool into liquid form for easier transportation.

Notably, this was a 40% climb on EU imports of Russian LNG for the same period in 2021. By comparison, the campaign group stated that the global average jump in Russian LNG imports stood at 6%.

On top of this, it pointed out that the EU is now buying up the bulk of Russia’s LNG. During the first seven months of 2023, the EU took 52% of Russia’s LNG exports. In the same period of 2022, this was 49%, and just 39% in 2021.

Moreover, two European countries are top buyers of Russian LNG. Specifically, Spain and Belgium are now the second and third largest purchasers of Russian LNG, behind only China. In 2023, Spain bought 18% of Russia’s total LNG. Meanwhile, Belgium was hot on its heels with 17% of Russia’s LNG sales. China accounted for marginally more, at 20%.

Gas from bloodshed in Ukraine

Global Witness suggested that the imports make the EU complicit in Russia’s war on Ukraine. Senior fossil fuel campaigner Jonathan Noronha-Gant said that:

Read on...

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every euro means more bloodshed. While European countries decry the war, they‘re putting money into Putin’s pockets.

The organisation has estimated that Russia’s LNG exports were worth $21bn in 2022. Given that oil and gas made up 45% of Russia’s federal budget pre-invasion in 2021, its likely the industry is financing its violent assault on Ukraine.

Global Witness also argued that the EU’s increase in Russian LNG exports showed that countries:

are simply not moving fast enough to replace gas with renewables.

In July, Climate Home News reported that the EU’s ambition for renewable energy deployment is woefully below what’s needed to meet global climate targets.

Of course, Western nations have meanwhile continued to facilitate fossil fuel expansion. G7 nations, including European economic majors, have doubled down on public finance for LNG elsewhere.

Fossil fuel profiteers of war

Of course, European fossil fuel majors have been making a killing from Russian LNG while the country wages its deadly invasion. Global Witness highlighted that Anglo-Dutch Shell and French TotalEnergies have maintained trade in Russian LNG. In particular, the campaign group showed that Total is the largest non-Russian buyer of LNG, at nearly 4.2 million cubic meters in 2023 so far.

Previous research from Global Witness in July revealed that Shell also likely raked in hundreds of millions of dollars in 2022 from Russian LNG. Its analysis identified that Shell had traded over 7.5 million cubic meters – 12% of Russia’s total LNG exports – between March and December 2022.

Global Witness said that this:

made Shell critical to a trade that brought Putin $21 billion in 2022.

Moreover, the nonprofit articulated how the oil and gas giant had justified its continued trade in Russian LNG:

under a pretext of ensuring Europe’s energy security.

However, as the Canary has previously detailed, this is a key “shock doctrine” tactic. Fossil fuel companies have employed this to capitalise on disasters. Significantly, a report from Greenpeace in April documented the industry’s barefaced weaponisation of the invasion to lock Europe into greater LNG dependancy.

Fossil fuels are war-mongering by design

Of course, European government and corporations’ support for brutal military regimes is nothing new. The Canary has previously highlighted EU financing and supply of arms to Saudi Arabia. The repressive regime has been waging a violent invasion on Yemen. Naturally, fossil fuels sit at the heart of Western backing of the war.

What’s more, not only has the EU increased its Russian LNG imports, it has also raised its share of fossil fuel imports from the violent Saudi regime. Since implementing sanctions, the EU’s share of diesel imports from Russia has plummeted. Whereas Russian diesel made up 53% of the Northwest Europe’s seaborne imports from October 2021 through September 2022, by February 2023, it was just 2%.

Conversely, in February 2023, Northwest Europe increased its imports of diesel from Saudi Arabia to 202,000 barrels per day. This was up from an average of 68,000 per day between October 2021 and September 2022.

Meanwhile, the Guardian and a group of nonprofits also exposed Western oil and gas companies’ coup money in February. They found that UK, US, and Irish gas firms had profited from Myanmar’s gas after its violent military coup.

The trade in fossil fuels has long been war-mongering by design. As Declassified UK detailed, fossil fuel interests have been at the center of multiple Western-backed coups and invasions.

If the devastating costs of the climate crisis weren’t already reason enough, fossil fuels’ major role in propping up murderous regimes should make the case for a just transition blatantly vital.

Feature image via Chursaev13/Wikimedia, cropped and resized to 1910 by 1000, licensed under CC BY 4.0

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  • Show Comments
    1. Did this Global Witness organisation condemn countries that buy from the USA? The blood on the hands of the US government far outstrips that on Putin’s, yet where is the outrage? The purpose of the US destroying the Nordstream pipelines was to force Europe to buy more expensive LNG by tanker from American energy corporations, but Global Witness seems to have been mute on that. As for ‘murderous regimes’, that is the aptest description of every US government I can think of.

    2. I agree with every word that Airlane 1979 says.
      USA’s record in promoting proxy wars wherever it thinks its interests lie is nothing new.
      USA / NATO engineered the proxy war in Ukraine by provoking Russia.
      NATO is the military arm of American foreign policy in Europe.
      USA has been spoiling for a war with Russia for years
      (A war in someone else’s country, of course.)
      Have pity on Ukraine which has been sacrificed in the interests of maintaining USA’s Hegemony.

      As for the “Super-Sanctions” that were supposed to bring the Russian Federation to its knees.:-
      That was just another of the “Super-Propaganda-Lies” that we were fed.

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