Image credit: Shutterstock/Nadja1
by Joseph Calnan
CGAI Energy Security Forum Coordinator
Table of Contents
- A Transatlantic Energy Security Alliance
- End Notes
- About the Author
- Canadian Global Affairs Institute
Western countries have united in opposition to Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine. There is a growing consensus that Western countries must stop buying Russian energy, both to reduce our vulnerability to President Vladimir Putin’s geopolitical gains and to cut off the flow of money to the Russian military. The most difficult aspect of doing this will be Europe’s transition away from Russian natural gas outlined in the European Commission’s REPowerEU plan. Canada can and must help Europe in this transition. To accomplish this, European countries, Canada and the United States should form a transatlantic energy security alliance built around flexible long-term contracts between North American natural gas suppliers and European sources of demand.
Prior to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, energy security experts worried about whether Russia would curtail or halt exports of natural gas to the European Union in response to sanctions. However, despite severe sanctions, the flow of Russian natural gas through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, the Yamal-Europe pipeline and even through Ukraine has continued and in some cases increased.1
What has happened instead is widespread condemnation of Russia and a genuine desire to end the flow of Western money into the country. While energy was initially excluded from the package of sanctions, many Western countries now plan to permanently end imports of Russian energy. Revenues from the sale of oil and natural gas accounted for 36 per cent of Russia’s budget in 2021.2 According to 2019 data from the World Bank, $142 out of the $222 billion of Russian fuel exports went to Western countries.3 While the initial sanctions have wreaked havoc on Russia’s economy and severely hurt ordinary Russians, carve-outs for energy allow the Russian state to use Western money to finance its war in Ukraine.
Because of this, Canada, followed by the United States and United Kingdom, introduced bans on the import of Russian hydrocarbons.4 But while these moves are significant, their imports from Russia are marginal and relatively easy to replace. A more serious action would be if Europe cut off imports of Russian oil and gas. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), Russia accounted for 34 per cent of total oil imports into OECD Europe in November 2021.5 For natural gas, Russia accounted for 32 per cent of total demand in the EU and the U.K. throughout 2021.6 Europe’s dependence on Russian energy goes both ways – while it makes Europe vulnerable to Russia, it also means that Russia is dependent on Europe for its economic health.
On March 8, the European Commission (EC) released REPowerEU, a plan to tackle Russian natural gas dependence. REPowerEU “sets out new actions to ramp up the production of green energy, diversify supplies and reduce demand, focusing primarily on gas, which significantly influences the electricity market and where the global market is less liquid.”7 The measures in REPowerEU are meant to reduce imports of Russian natural gas by 100 bcm/yr by the end of 2022, roughly two-thirds of total EU natural gas imports from Russia.8
The most significant of the short-term moves proposed in REPowerEU is an additional 50 bcm/yr of LNG imports. It lists Qatar, the United States, Egypt and West Africa as possible sources of this LNG. However, as CSIS energy security expert Nikos Tsafos noted recently, the incremental growth in LNG supply through 2022 will be far less than 50 bcm/yr.9 This is in line with comments from Qatar’s energy minister, who said on February 22 that there wasn’t enough LNG capacity worldwide to make up for Europe’s Russian imports.10 The result will likely be a bidding war with Asia, resulting in poorer nations like Pakistan and Bangladesh being squeezed out of the market, and shortages which will drive up the cost of essential goods such as nitrogen-based fertilizers.
If Europe is committed to boosting LNG imports, and to avoid causing long-term energy poverty elsewhere, the best path would be through a transatlantic energy security alliance, which would extend North America’s integrated natural gas market to Europe through flexible long-term contracts between North American suppliers and European customers.
In January 2022, American LNG supplied around 0.18 bcm/day of LNG to Europe.11 Averaged over a year, that equals 65 bcm/yr from U.S. Gulf Coast liquefaction terminals. Increasing this supply by an additional 50 bcm/yr will be challenging, but the U.S. LNG industry is accustomed to rapid growth, having grown 12-fold in the last five years to a peak capacity of around 120 bcm/yr.12 However, to secure dozens of bcm/yr in additional projects, Europe must commit to the long-term contracts that allow LNG projects to reach a final investment decision.
Europe’s preference for the flexibility of natural gas spot markets has resulted in fewer long-term contracts, and therefore too few LNG export facilities. This preference for flexibility comes from a reasonable desire to wind down natural gas imports as Europe decarbonizes its economy. But bringing enough certainty to fill the LNG gap will not require Europe to compromise on its commitment to decarbonization if the contracts are written with flexibility in mind.
In a commentary for the Center for Strategic and International Studies released on March 4, Tsafos advocated for a joint European-American LNG strategy.13 Under his plan, European governments could support an expansion of American LNG by signing long-term contracts which include the option of sending the LNG to Asia after 10 years. According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), around 257 bcm/yr of LNG export facilities are awaiting final investment decision in the United States, meaning that they can’t justify building the facility, due to lack of demand certainty. With 50 bcm/yr of additional contracts from the European Union, many of these projects would be instantly viable. These contracts would solidify Europe’s contribution to a transatlantic energy security alliance.
These contracts can also be designed to have a positive climate impact. They could be linked to strict methane emissions standards.14 Also, after 10 years, if European energy policies have significantly diminished European natural gas demand, the immense surplus of LNG supplies could be channelled toward South Asia, East Asia and Africa to help phase out their coal power fleets while maintaining their own energy security.15
The U.S.’s role in a transatlantic alliance would be to prioritize and accelerate the construction of LNG facilities. It could do this by reallocating more resources to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to accelerate the regulatory process and by assisting in any way possible to ease supply chain bottlenecks.
Canada is already helping European energy security by contributing to the massive, low-cost North American natural gas market which makes LNG exports economical. As the world’s fifth largest producer of natural gas, Canada produces far more than it could possibly consume. In 2021, Canada exported nearly 80 bcm of natural gas to the United States via pipeline.16 This may seem small compared with the nearly 1,200 bcm/yr of natural gas production in the U.S., but Canada’s production plays an important role in providing stability to the massive U.S. market. For example, when winter storm Uri shut down Texas in 2021, Canada stepped in by flooding the U.S. market with the largest February natural gas export levels in a decade.17
To show our commitment to securing Europe’s energy security, Canada can contribute to a transatlantic energy security alliance by allocating some of its windfall resource revenues into securing additional LNG supplies. The federal government could collaborate with Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia to devote some of Canada’s high income tax and royalty revenues from current high energy prices toward signing additional contracts for LNG supplies from U.S. firms, thereby enabling more LNG projects to come online. These Canadian LNG cargoes could be managed by Export Development Canada and sold at cost to European customers, and eventually to Asian customers as well.
Canada has an opportunity and a responsibility to join with the United States to help our European allies separate themselves from Russian energy dominance. With a transatlantic energy security alliance, we can prove our worth as a reliable energy security partner.
After the disaster at Dunkirk, Winston Churchill defied the Nazi regime with his famous “We Shall Fight on the Beaches” speech, which underlined the British resolve to resist the fascists, no matter the cost. He ended his speech with an appeal to the United States and Canada: “We shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.”
Our resources can again be marshalled in support of our allies and partners on the other side of the Atlantic. All we need is the will.
1 Thomas Escritt, David Gauthier-Villars, Sarah Marsh, Christoph Steitz and Joseph Nasri, “Is the War in Ukraine Impacting Russian Gas Supplies to Europe?” Reuters, March 7, 2022, https://www.reuters.com/business/energy/is-war-ukraine-impacting-russian-gas-supplies-europe-2022-03-07/.
2 Vladimir Soldatkin, Darya Korsunskaya, Oksana Kobzeva and Elena Fabrichnaya, “Factbox: Russia’s Oil and Gas Revenue Windfall,” Reuters, January 21, 2022, https://www.reuters.com/markets/europe/russias-oil-gas-revenue-windfall-2022-01-21/.
3 World Integrated Trade Solution, “Russian Federation Fuel Exports by Region,” World Bank, https://wits.worldbank.org/CountryProfile/en/Country/RUS/StartYear/2019/EndYear/2019/TradeFlow/Export/Indicator/XPRT-TRD-VL/Partner/BY-REGION/Product/Fuels.
4 “Biden Announces U.S. Ban on Imports of Russian Oil,” Bloomberg, March 8, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/videos/2022-03-08/biden-announces-u-s-ban-on-imports-of-russian-oil-video.
5 International Energy Agency, “Oil Market and Russian Supply: Russia Plays an Outsized Role in Global Oil Markets,” March 2022, https://www.iea.org/reports/russian-supplies-to-global-energy-markets/oil-market-and-russian-supply-2.
6 Ibid., “Gas Market and Russian Supply: The Role of Russia and Ukraine’s Transit in Europe’s Gas Supply,” March 2022, https://www.iea.org/reports/russian-supplies-to-global-energy-markets/gas-market-and-russian-supply-2#abstract.
7 European Commission, “REPowerEU: Joint European Action for More Affordable, Secure and Sustainable Energy,” Press release, March 8, 2022, https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/ip_22_1511.
9 Nikos Tsafos, “Can Europe Import an Additional 50 bcm in 2022?” Twitter, March 8, 2022, https://twitter.com/ntsafos/status/1501269103050379267.
10 Maha El Dahan, Andrew Mills and Marwa Rashad, “Qatar Says ‘Almost Impossible’ to Quickly Replace Russian Supplies to Europe,” Reuters, February 22, 2022, https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/qatar-can-divert-up-15-its-gas-exports-2022-02-22/.
11 Energy Information Administration, “Three Countries Provided Almost 70% of Liquefied Natural Gas Received in Europe in 2021,” February 22, 2022, https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=51358.
12 Ibid., “U.S. Liquefied Natural Gas Export Capacity Will Be World’s Largest by End of 2022,” March 8, 2022, https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=50598.
13 Nikos Tsafos, “How U.S. LNG Could Help Europe and Climate,” CSIS, March 4, 2022, https://www.csis.org/analysis/how-us-lng-could-help-europe-and-climatehttps://www.csis.org/analysis/how-us-lng-could-help-europe-and-climate.
14 Aaron Clark and Dina Khrennikova, “Huge Methane Leak Spotted by Satellite Came From Gazprom Pipeline,” Bloomberg, June 17, 2021, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-06-18/gazprom-admits-to-massive-methane-leaks.
16 Canada Energy Regulator, “Commodity Statistics,” https://apps.cer-rec.gc.ca/CommodityStatistics/Statistics.aspx?language=english.
Joseph Calnan is the Energy Security Forum Coordinator at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute. He graduated from the University of Calgary's School of Public Policy with a Master's Degree in Public Policy in 2020. He received a Bachelor of Arts in Western Society and Culture from Concordia University in Montreal. Prior to joining CGAI, Joseph worked as a CEO's Office Intern with Sustainable Development Technology Canada. Joseph has also worked as an intern and in short-term contract positions with various firms involved in Alberta's energy industry, including Canadian Natural Resources Limited, Rocky Layman Energy Inc., and Marvin Shaffer and Associates.
The Canadian Global Affairs Institute focuses on the entire range of Canada’s international relations in all its forms including (in partnership with the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy), trade investment and international capacity building. Successor to the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute (CDFAI, which was established in 2001), the Institute works to inform Canadians about the importance of having a respected and influential voice in those parts of the globe where Canada has significant interests due to trade and investment, origins of Canada’s population, geographic security (and especially security of North America in conjunction with the United States), social development, or the peace and freedom of allied nations. The Institute aims to demonstrate to Canadians the importance of comprehensive foreign, defence and trade policies which both express our values and represent our interests.
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