Russian LNG, Europe and the Sanctions

Liquefied natural gas

Russia, a vast and resource-rich country, has long relied on its primary sector for exports, particularly in the form of gas and oil, together with other valuable resources. Since the beginning of Russia’s Special Military Operation in Ukraine in February 2022, the U.S. government has thus been working to impose sanctions on Russia’s oil and gas industry with the specific aim of causing significant economic damage.

Liquefied natural gas (LNG) has become increasingly popular in recent years due to advancements in technology that have made it more affordable to extract and transport. Russia has emerged as a leading producer and exporter of LNG, with the latest data showing that it ranks fourth in the world in terms of production.

The Utrenneye gas field, located in the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug, and the development of its infrastructure are integral to the Arctic LNG 2 initiative; we could define it as one of those projects that really cannot be delayed. And precisely for this reason, at the end of February, the United States imposed sanctions on Novatek, the energy giant responsible for its completion.

Furthermore, just this week, Geoffrey Pyatt, US Assistant Secretary of State for Energy Resources, “teased” new sanctions against the Russian gas industry, specifically targeting the production of ice-navigating tankers. This move is particularly meaningful as it could inhibit the shipment of LNG extracted and processed not only from the Utrenneye and Yamal fields, but from the whole Russian Arctic.

Following the US’s steps, the European Parliament too recently exhorted the EU Member States to reduce their energy dependency on Russia, which last year brought in an estimated $12 billion in revenue for Moscow. Despite this, the need for Russian liquefied natural gas continues to be strong in Europe, making up roughly 15% of the total EU’s imports of LNG in the final quarter of 2023, up from the previous 8% in 2022.

Despite sanctions and recommendations (the European Commission has indeed only recommended a “voluntary” exit from reliance on Russian gas, refraining from imposing one as it did with oil), several countries in Europe continue to purchase large quantities of LNG gas, with Spain, Belgium and France among the most notable.

The long pipelines that once delivered gas from Russia to various parts of Europe are now closed. However, a new pathway has emerged, with gas from the Arctic now entering Europe by boat from the West as LNG and reaching the continent’s core.

While sanctions have undoubtedly slowed its flow, Russian gas continues to find its way into Europe.

Tommaso Bontempi

Holds a Master's degree in Comparative International Relations from Ca' Foscari University of Venice, Italy. The author is passionate about everything related to Eastern Europe, be it history, culture or languages. His life takes place between Italy and Russia, while the Arctic holds a dear place in his heart.