Europe unlikely to see gas shortage next winter

Europe's gas reserves are at an unusually high level for this time of year, with reservoirs still 56 per cent full following a mild winter, compared to just 25 per cent last year. Despite the Russian gas tap being turned off, Europe is in a better starting position to replenish winter stocks than it was in spring 2022, De Standaard wrote on Wednesday.

Professor Thijs Van de Graaf, an expert in energy policy and international politics at Ghent University, said Europe has been fortunate. "To begin with, we experienced a very mild winter, which meant that much less natural gas was needed for heating." A European agreement to consume 15 per cent less gas between August 2021 and March 2022 compared to the average of the previous five years also helped, he told De Standaard.

Europe has also benefited from China's zero-Covid policy, which suppressed economic growth in the country and resulted in lower demand for natural gas, particularly liquefied natural gas (LNG). As China begins to wind down this policy, there is concern that its economic growth will increase the demand for LNG, one of the primary means of topping up Europe's winter supply.

In January, the International Energy Agency (IEA) predicted that LNG production would not increase in 2023 and that in the worst case, Europe could have a shortfall of 20 billion cubic metres of gas for the winter of 2023-2024. However, Van de Graaf believes there is now less cause for concern: "The IEA assumed that gas deliveries from Russia would completely disappear. This has not been the case so far."


The Fluxys LNG terminal in Zeebrugge © BELGA PHOTO KURT DESPLENTER

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