Qatar and US in Talks over Supplying Gas to Europe Should Russia Shut down Gas Pipelines

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Qatar and US in Talks over Supplying Gas to Europe Should Russia Shut down Gas Pipelines

Flag of the State of Qatar (© Shutterstock/Comdas)
Flag of the State of Qatar (© Shutterstock/Comdas)

The emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani is expected to discuss the possibilities of Qatar supplying a short-term emergency liquid gas to Europe with the US President, Joe Biden, on Monday, January 31, 2022, to cover any shortages should Russia stop supplying gas to Germany.

In case of a gas pipelines shutdown from Russia, Qatar could supply gas to Europe from its storage in East Asia. The country is also planning for a large-scale debut in the European market as it witnesses an increase in its gas productions while also hoping to see an end to the European commission anti-trust probe.

According to a source privy to the discussion, the two heads of state will likely announce some new developments this week following more than a fortnight of talks. British sources involved in separate talks with Qatar believe Doha has all it takes to bail Europe out of the gas crisis, even as Germany lacks liquefied natural gas import terminal.

Qatar Gas Almost Enough to cover Europe’s Gas Deficit

While the bulk of Qatar’s gas is sold in Asian markets under long-term contracts, the sources said some flexibility exists as the country’s capacity is almost enough to fill for a total cut-off of Russian gas. With simmering tensions over Ukraine, the emir is expected to visit Washington on Monday, January 31, to discuss how Qatar can help solve an energy crisis in Europe should they be plunged into darkness and cold should conflict over Ukraine worsens.

Qatar is one of the leading global suppliers of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), alongside Australia. However, about two-thirds of Qatar’s gas exports are sold under long-term contracts that could even go for 20 years.

Canada, a very close ally to Washington, has already pledged to help in a crisis save a country like Germany, which depends on Russia for more than 50% of the gas needed for energy needs. On average, Europe imports 40% of gas from Russia.

According to an energy specialist at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, Nikos Tsafos, Europe was due to import a record amount of liquefied natural gas in January. However, the proportion of LNG sent to Europe from Qatar has remained at 1m tonnes per month while the amount of gas sold to the Asian market hit 5m tonnes per month.

According to experts, the low gas exports to Europe can be attributed to the 2018 European Commission anti-trust investigation, which Qatar is looking to overcome. Even though Putin vowed never to use its vast gas reserves as a political weapon, there’s no guarantee Russia would try to plunge Ukraine into darkness in case of severe sanctions from the west.

“In a fight over Ukraine, Russia would without a doubt be prepared to cut off gas supplies to Europe in winter. Furthermore, fighting in Ukraine could affect the flow of gas to Europe if pipelines are damaged, or supplies are cut. Europe should therefore be taking immediate steps to prepare for a gas shortage this winter,” a think-tank close to Biden’s administration hinted.

Since Germany has no LNG terminal, it receives its liquefied natural gas via terminals in neighbouring countries such as Poland, the Netherlands, Belgium, or Rodvigo in Italy. German officials are optimistic the interdependence between Russia and Germany would not allow for a breakdown in relations.

According to Markus Krebber, chief executive of RWE, Germany’s largest electricity supplier, Germany would service only for weeks if a full Russia blockade was imposed.

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