Cheniere Energy’s LNG plant, with 27 million tons per year nameplate capacity at the Sabine Pass River on the Louisiana-Texas border, was commissioned in 2016 and was the first of its kind in the U.S. Dominion Energy’s Cove Point plant on the Chesapeake Bay, which can produce 5.25 million tons of LNG per year, started to stream last month. At least four more natural gas liquidation facilities are set to start operating in the coming months, and dozens of companies have submitted long-term application forms for LNG exports with the U.S. Department of Energy.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration reported that the country’s liquefied natural gas exports had increased to 2.8 billion cubic feet per day as of November 2017. That followed the completion of the fourth liquefaction unit at the Sabine Pass terminal, which has the largest capacity in the lower 48 states.
Brussels’s and Washington’s efforts to open and diversify the natural gas market in Europe are perceived by some Russian observers as a “gas war” being waged by the U.S. against Moscow.
However, the demand for de-monopolization and diversification of the market is a requirement of the European Union’s Third Energy Package, which stipulates separation of companies’ production and sale operations from their transport networks.
Russia’s state-controlled energy giant Gazprom has consistently pushed to increase the volumes of its natural gas deliveries to Europe, by building the Turkish Stream pipeline in southern Europe through the Black Sea and by pressing affected countries to permit the construction of Nord Stream 2, the second edition of the disputed pipeline under the Baltic Sea. All of this violates the Third Energy Package.
The first edition of Nord Stream, both lines of which were completed in 2011, was actually built to circumvent any land transit for Russian gas through the Baltic states and Poland, therefore directly influencing the supply of gas to Western Europe. Currently, at least a third of Europe’s gas comes from Russia, and Gazprom’s shipments to the continent reached a record high last year and are only expected to grow.
In 2011, the energy package was already in force, and merely inaugurating the Nord Stream pipeline violated EU laws. Gazprom, the majority owner of North Stream AG, the operator of the pipeline, is actually the sole producer, seller and transporter of the gas.
However, while the launch of Nord Stream violated EU law, protests by officials in Poland and the Baltic countries were futile at that time, given that Moscow was playing energy geopolitics, with Gazprom signing one-on-one gas deals with many EU member states.
Over the course of natural gas payment disputes with Kyiv, Russia interrupted the supply of gas to Ukraine and Ukraine’s EU neighbors on at least three occasions between 2009 and 2011. The Russian government-owned media outlet RT also twisted the facts surrounding Russia’s energy supply pressure, which Polygraph.info fact-checked in March.
Each of these gas cuts interrupted the market, leaving several European countries without natural gas supplies during the winter. On the heels of skyrocketing oil prices – gas prices follow oil prices with a delay of several months – Russia found a new tool to influence the domestic policies of the affected countries. Playing geopolitics with energy followed Vladimir Putin’s infamous anti-Western speech in Munich in 2007.
Fast-forwarding to the present day, Europeans are still depend on cheap Russian gas. The Russian media and government continue to portray Washington as the aggressor, spinning the recent visit of Jean-Claude Junker, the president of the European Commission, as a way for U.S. President Donald Trump to persuade Europe to build more terminals for American LNG.
Russia has dominated the European energy market for decades and even RIA Novosti has said Russia’s gas cannot be simply replaced by American LNG, which is a small supply compared to the continent’s overall gas consumption. Polygraph.info’s January fact check detailed the fact that the U.S. LNG supplies do not “reduce the energy security in Europe” as RT claimed, but actually contribute to energy stability in Europe.