During the energy crisis caused by the invasion of Ukraine, Spain imported significantly more liquefied natural gas from Russia last year. The nearly 54 terawatt-hours (TWh) of liquefied natural gas (LNG) purchased represents a 45% increase over imports in 2021.
This additional 17 TWh imported from Russia last year comes on top of the 37 TWh Spain annually procures from a field on the Yamal Peninsula, northwest of Siberia. This is part of a long-term contract signed years ago between Naturgy and Yamal LNG.
It is largely owned by Novatek, an independent company. Novatek is the country’s largest gas producer after state-owned Gazprom (the main gas exporter to Europe). French energy company Total and Chinese companies CNPC and Silk Road Fund are also shareholders in the company that manages the Arctic field.
Naturgy’s contract with Yamal is the only long-term contract signed by a Spanish company to buy gas from Russia. The deal is valid until 2041. Furthermore, it provides for the purchase of 3 billion cubic metres. This is then transported by a total of 37 methane tankers.
It seems that the sharp increase in purchases is the result of one-off contracts executed by operators who have taken advantage of the low prices of this product. Gas is not affected by the sanctions imposed by Brussels following the invasion of Ukraine. And Spain has a third of all liquefied natural gas regasification capacity across the European Union.
Similar increase in Europe
The upward trend in Spain’s 2022 purchase of Russian gas was not isolated within Europe. With Gazprom’s pipelines rendered almost completely unusable since the summer, the European Union has increased its imports of liquefied natural gas by ship to secure supplies
In the first nine months of the year alone, purchases increased by more than 40% compared to the same period last year. Most of the increase went to France, Belgium, Spain and the Netherlands. Instead of reducing dependence, the increase in imports has led Russia to become the EU’s second–largest supplier of liquefied natural gas by 2022, after the United States.
Russia fourth supplier
Spain saw the largest inflow of LNG from Russia last June, when the country became the second largest gas supplier, even ahead of Algeria. Despite the increase in purchases, Russia remains fourth on the list of producers for the whole year. It accounted for 12.1% of Spain’s total 446 TWh acquired in 2022, more than 3% higher than last year.
The ranking is led by the United States, which accounted for almost 29% of total gas purchases, up from barely 14% last year. With this increase, Algeria displaces its traditional top position, whose sales to Spain fell from almost 43% to 23% of the annual total.
With the surge in LNG purchases, the United States and Russia supplied more than 40% of Spain’s gas imports last year, compared to barely 2% of the total five years earlier.
Peak reserves and falling prices T
This increase in liquefied natural gas purchases meant that, despite the large reduction in flows through Russian pipelines, European Union countries managed to bring their reserves to 90% in November. Moreover, mild autumn weather allowed consumption to be reduced. Consequently, gas storage in the EU as a whole is now close to 83% of capacity. That´s the highest level at this time in the past decade.
In Spain, reserves remain above these values, reaching almost 94%, a figure that has risen in recent days. This reduced concern about gas supply in the coming months is also reflected