Europe’s Quest to Replace Russian Gas Faces Plenty of Hurdles

“What the invasion of Ukraine has done is take one of the three major producers of natural gas on a global basis out of the picture for future planning,” said Charif Souki, executive chairman of Tellurian, a gas company building an export terminal in Louisiana . “No one will rely on Russia in the future. Now the US has the opportunity to become by far the powerhouse of natural gas.”

European countries have expressed an intention to phase out its dependence on over 150 billion cubic feet of annual imported Russian gas, partly by importing an additional 50 billion cubic feet of LNG, roughly 50 percent more than it currently imports.

That will not be easy, since the global LNG market is only 523 billion cubic meters a year, nearly 20 percent of which already goes to Europe. New LNG export terminals are coming online in the United States and Qatar, but demand is increasing even faster, especially in Asian countries trying to ease air pollution from coal burning.

That leaves the United States, even though several of its gas fields have insufficient pipeline capacity and have attracted few major drillers because prices have been so low until recently.

Since the Russian invasion, the Biden administration has pledged to increase LNG exports to the European Union by 15 billion cubic feet, or roughly 40 percent. That is only about one-tenth of Russian shipments to Europe, but American energy experts say American companies could produce and ship much more gas with more pipelines and export terminals.

Export operations are being expanded in the United States, with three new terminals expected to be completed by 2026. Another 10 await permits, long-term buyers and investors. EQT, a leading gas producer, has called for the country to quadruple LNG capacity by 2030, a proposal that has received broad industry support.

“We have the resources in the ground,” said David Braziel, chief executive of RBN Energy, an analytics firm. “And we could develop them if you had an indication from the administration that they want to develop natural-gas resources.”

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