Russia-Europe tensions threaten codependent gas markets

Jeffrey J. Schott (PIIE) and Megan Hogan (PIIE)
Russia-Europe tensions threaten codependent gas markets


Europe has not ruled out blocking the Nord Stream 2 pipeline as a political and economic response to the possible Russian invasion of Ukraine. Cancelling the already-constructed but not yet operational pipeline, a 764-mile export gas line running from Russia to Germany, would deprive Russia of valuable export revenues. But Europe would also be sacrificing much-needed gas imports during an energy crisis with few alternative gas suppliers.

Russian exports of natural gas and liquefied natural gas (LNG) supplied an estimated 35 percent of Europe's gas consumption in 2021. Gas is a major pillar of Europe's plan to transition from coal and compensate for reductions in nuclear energy. To meet its energy demands and climate ambitions, Europe needs to increase its gas imports in the coming years while it scales up renewable energy production and improves efficiency. Reactivating coal and nuclear plants are a fallback option but would be politically contentious.  

Russia is also dependent on Europe as a customer. Russian gas sales to Europe represented more than 80 percent of its total exports in 2021. Nord Stream 2 would increase current Russian gas exports to Europe by a third .Russia has recently been trying to diversify its sales—it completed a pipeline with China in 2019 and has plans to add a second, but so far the volume of gas exports to China has been very small. Russia continues to rely heavily on the European market.

This PIIE Chart is based on Jeffrey J. Schott's blog, Europe faces tough choices on Nord Stream 2 if Russia invades Ukraine.

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