“Russia has lost the energy battle,” Fatih Birol, Executive Director of the International Energy Agency (IEA), told French newspaper Liberation in March, a year after Russia invaded Ukraine.
In the year and a half since Putin ordered troops into Ukraine and cut off natural gas supply via pipeline to many EU customers, Europe has managed to replace much of the piped gas with LNG imports, and has banned imports of Russian crude and petroleum products.
The U.S. has stepped up to fill part of the oil and gas supply gap left by Russia. It was quite a gap, and American oil producers and exporters of LNG have been happy to fill it.
“Trade flows have been turned on their head with Middle East and the US exporters the key beneficiaries,” Amrita Sen, head of research at consultancy Energy Aspects, told the Financial Times.
Russia Loses European Energy Market
Since the invasion of Ukraine, Russia has lost Europe as an energy customer and is now reduced to China and India for selling its crude oil. China and India are the world’s largest and third-largest crude oil importers, respectively, so the potential Chinese and Indian markets for Russian crude are huge. However, we may have already seen peak Indian crude oil imports from Russia, analysts say.
Europe, for its part, is buying more oil and gas from the United States and is signing long-term LNG supply deals with U.S. exporters—deals that were not so ‘welcome’ in Europe just two years ago when climate goals were top of developed nations’ energy priorities.
Russian gas is neither sanctioned nor embargoed anywhere, but some buyers in North Asia may have become wary of depending on Russian LNG too much.
Before the war and the embargoes on its oil, Russia accounted for nearly 40% of all European imports of crude, refined products, and natural gas. Currently, the EU doesn’t import Russian crude, except Bulgaria, due to an EU derogation until 2024. Natural gas supply via pipelines from Russia now accounts for less than 10% of the EU’s gas supply, down from nearly 40% before the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Europe’s single biggest gas supplier now is Western Europe’s top oil and gas producer Norway, a close EU ally and a founding member of NATO.
Some Asian Customers May Be Nearing Limits For Russia’s Energy
As Europe is shifting away from Russian fossil fuels, Asian customers China and India have become the key customers of Russia’s crude. India’s oil imports from Russia continued to surge in the first half of 2023 as cheaper Russian crude exports find more and more buyers in the world’s third-largest crude oil importer.
More than a year since the war began, India has turned from a marginal buyer of Russian crude to the most important market for Moscow’s oil alongside China. Indian refiners, not complying with the G7 price cap and looking for cheap opportunistic purchases, have snapped up many of the Russian Urals cargoes, which used to go to northwest Europe before the EU embargo.
But India may have seen the peak crude imports of Russian crude, due to infrastructure constraints and the need to keep good trade relations with other crude oil suppliers, according to analysts at Kpler.
“India will look to continue Russian crude imports, but perhaps it has reached its limit, hampering any additional barrels,” Janiv Shah, senior analyst at Rystad Energy, told CNBC this week.
In natural gas, Asia looks to have limited spot purchases of Russia’s LNG, as major buyers in North Asia are estimated to have slashed imports from Russian export projects to the lowest in two years. Buyers are looking to diversify and avoid potential future problems with payments and deliveries, according to Bloomberg.
U.S. Oil And Gas Exporters Win
As buyers in Europe retreated from Russian oil, U.S. crude oil exports to Europe rose and are expected to continue rising.
Last year, Europe ranked a close second after Asia in terms of U.S. crude oil purchases. European imports of crude from the United States averaged 1.51 million barrels per day (bpd) in 2022, accounting for 42% of American crude exports, just shy of the 43% of U.S. exports that went to Asia, per EIA data.
“EU sanctions implemented in December 2022 that prohibit all seaborne imports of Russia’s oil to Europe make it likely that demand for U.S. crude oil will continue in 2023,” the EIA said earlier this year.
“The US came out ahead with rising oil and gas exports and a new multibillion congressionally mandated plan to win in clean tech,” Amy Myers Jaffe, a New York University research professor and energy expert, told FT.
In the LNG market, Europe and China are in an intensifying competition to sign long-term supply deals with U.S. LNG developers and exporters.
Long-term LNG contracting has seen a flurry of deals in recent months, including from buyers in Europe, where energy security has taken center stage at the expense of concerns about emissions from natural gas imports.
For the U.S. LNG developers and exporters, more long-term purchase deals with Europe – and Asia – mean more chances for projects to contract future volumes from planned export facilities and underpin financing and final investment decisions for a greater number of U.S. LNG export terminals.
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com
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