With U.S. Gas, Europe Seeks Escape From Russia’s Energy Grip
Gulf Coast exports of liquefied natural gas, or LNG, are expected to loosen Russia’s dominance in the European energy marketBy Georgi Kantchev, WSJ
Updated Feb. 25, 2016 10:36 p.m. ET
ABOARD THE INDEPENDENCE, Lithuania—On the deck of this floating gas terminal, Mantas Bartuska awaits a tanker to pass a narrow inlet on the Baltic Sea with the first natural gas shipments from the Gulf Coast that many hope will transform Europe’s energy market.
“Soon, hopefully, U.S. gas will come,” said Mr. Bartuska, chief executive of the operator of the Independence, the gas terminal docked at the port city of Klaipeda, Lithuania.
After a yearslong effort, a tanker chartered by Cheniere Energy, an American company, left a Louisiana port this week with the first major exports of U.S. liquefied natural gas, or LNG. This shipment isn’t going to Europe, but others are expected to arrive by spring.
“Like shale gas was a game changer in the U.S., American gas exports could be a game changer for Europe,” said Maros Sefcovic, the European Union’s energy chief.
Many in Europe see U.S. entry into the market as part of a broader effort to challenge Russian domination of energy supplies and prices in this part of the world. Moscow has for years used its giant energy reserves as a strategic tool to influence former satellite countries, including Lithuania, one of the countries on the fringes of Russia that now see a chance to break away.
Some are building the capacity to handle seaborne LNG, including Poland, which opened its first import terminal last year. In Bulgaria, which buys about 90% of its gas from Russia, Prime Minister Boyko Borissov said last month that supplies of U.S. gas could arrive via Greek LNG facilities, “God willing.”