Maroš Šefčovič: Liquefied Natural Gas for even landlocked countries

Liquefied natural gas (LNG) has been part of Europe's energy supply, for just as long as piped gas. In fact, Europe was the world’s first LNG market, and the very first LNG ship came from the US, when the Methane Pioneer, a converted World War II cargo ship, delivered LNG from Louisiana to the Canvey Island LNG terminal in England, in February, 1959.

Despite an early start, up until now, Europe has not had a comprehensive LNG strategy, encompassing the entire EU. In the current political climate, where Member States clearly recognise the benefit and importance of an integrated energy market, the time is clearly ripe to present the first EU LNG Strategy.

In recent years, our concerns for the security of supply have been aggravated, mainly due to the geo-political situation to the east of the EU. At the same time, we have witnessed a transition of the gas markets, which have become global, rather than regional. Given these two coinciding trends, the European Commission has decided to propose an LNG Strategy, which will be put on the table at the beginning of 2016. In parallel to this, we will propose a revision of the Regulation on the Security of Gas Supply.

The objective of the new LNG and Storage Strategy is to identify whether EU action – internal and external - may be necessary in the medium to longer-term period, in order to ensure that all Member States, in particular, those in Central and South-Eastern Europe, have direct or indirect access to both LNG and sufficient storage capacity.

We strive to allow even LNG-access, not only to coastal Member States, but also for those which are landlocked, through other EU members. We will prioritise infrastructure projects and cost-efficient solutions that will bring us closer to the "Ideal Map". This "Ideal Map" will consist of LNG and/or interconnections, reverse flows where necessary, regional co-operation, etc. We will also continue to eliminate cross-border gas trade barriers, focusing on sufficient gas storage infrastructure in the EU, and ensuring access to storages on a regional basis, when responding to market challenges.

We will concentrate, not only on the internal EU energy market, but will also propose actions within international LNG markets, and our need to fill up our storages and pipelines in Europe. In recent years, the US has moved from energy scarcity to energy abundance, recently surpassing Russia in its natural gas production, and becoming a global leader. Given the American gas surplus, both sides of the Atlantic could greatly benefit from transatlantic LNG trade. A free trade in the energy market (whether through TTIP or separately) would also allow EU domestic refiners and chemical companies to access competitively-priced crude oils and gas. On the EU side, however, we need to ‘do our homework’ to facilitate the transatlantic LNG trade.

The European Commission sees this as a crucial element of its LNG Strategy, and is, therefore, ready for this task.