Spain turns around its gas imports with the entry of atypical markets such as Norway or Belgium

The war in Ukraine has caused an earthquake in the energy sector and has expanded the need to seek gas supplies beyond Russia. A global demand for supplier diversification that is making itself felt in Spain, which has acquired the role of hub receiverespecially liquefied natural gas (LNG), to distribute it to other European partners.

Enagás, the operator of the gas sector, has just published data on gas imports up to last August. A report that highlights trends that have been going on for months. For example, that Spain imports, above all, LNG from the United States. Also that, despite the conflict, LNG from Russia continues to arrive at Spanish regasification plants – there are no sanctions or restrictions in this regard – and that Algeria has slightly reduced its weight as a strategic supplier. In this case, conventional natural gas.

Beyond these markets, more traditional gas hubs, there are others that are gaining prominence and that indicate how the international board is changing. Among them, two European countries. One, Norway. Its huge gas reserves have enabled it to strengthen itself as a key supplier to the European Union. In August, Spain received 937 GWh of LNG from Norway. It is the first time so far this year that Spain imports Norwegian LNG, according to the Enagás statistical report. Belgium also debuted as a provider, with 1,094 GWh.

Both figures represent quantities equivalent to a large methane tanker, which has a transport capacity of close to 130,000 cubic meters of gas, according to industry sources who prefer to remain anonymous. However, there are fundamental differences between the two countries. While Norway is a net exporter of natural gas, Belgium would have been an intermediary country in these shipments, since it does not have large reserves of this raw material, according to the aforementioned sources. And that is another of the characteristics of this gas import and export scheme, that it is not a completely transparent market.

The data published by both Enagás and the Corporation for Strategic Reserves of Petroleum Products (Cores) indicate from which countries gas arrives and to which it is sent. For example, Spain received in August from Qatar the equivalent of 1,653 GWh of LNG. A figure that is far from the 5,835 from Nigeria, the 4,505 GWh from Russia and the 10,074 imported from the United States.

However, with these data it is not possible to know if the country from which that LNG comes acts as an intermediary, or if it is sent to the final recipient or just a point to the next destination. Nor is it broken down who are the companies or firms that buy this raw material at a time when prices are skyrocketing.

In other words, there is no traceability to verify whether the LNG that arrives in Spain from Norway, Belgium, Qatar, Nigeria or Russia is for one of the large energy companies on the Ibex or for a trader who is buying and selling this raw material in the global market, taking advantage of an inflationary situation and a voracious appetite for winter in the northern hemisphere. However, different sources consulted do indicate that more reliable and secure markets, such as the United States, point to long-term structured contracts.

The companies consulted by elDiario.es prefer not to assess how this international gas purchase market works. They argue that it is an issue that concerns their own business operations and corporate strategy.

Apart from the traditional gas and electricity companies, there are other large international operators that are dedicated to the purchase and sale of raw materials, gas included. Among them, there are international groups that act as intermediaries, such as the giant Glencore; or other specialized ones like Gunvor or Trafigura. The latter has published financial data on how it has fared in the first half of its fiscal year, although it corresponds until March 31. In those six months, its net profit grew 27%, to 2.7 billion dollars; and its income, 73%, up to 170,600 million dollars, which was justified by the increase in the price of raw materials and the greater volumes traded in the market.

The data, despite the unknowns they present, do allow conclusions to be drawn. One of them, that Spain is changing the mix in terms of natural gas and LNG imports. The latter was 63.3% of the total imported raw material in August, while natural gas was 36.7%. In contrast, a year ago, those percentages were 58.4% and 41.6%, respectively. Here come changes in what is being received from Algeria. Unlike previous years, in July and August Spain has not imported LNG from that country, but only natural gas. In total, in that last month, 9,127 GWh, when a year ago there were more than 12,000, according to Enagás records, to which another 1,500 of LNG were added.

Precisely, the network manager already indicated at the beginning of summer that Spain is changing its strategy and wants to become a distributor to the rest of Europe. "Spain is doing a lot and we are going to do morein communication with the Ministry, within the framework of the solidarity agreements, to provide gas to the rest of Europe", indicated the CEO of the company, Arturo Gonzalo Aizpiri. The axis is to take advantage of the network of six regasification plants and, also, the capacity of the port of El Musel, in Gijón, to accommodate larger methane tankers.

In this framework of exports, the latest data published by Cores – entity that depends on the Ministry for the Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge – correspond to the month of July. That month we exported almost 753 GWh of LNG to other European countries. And, of that number, more than 640 have gone to Italy. In total, so far this year more than 8,200 GWh have been sent to other European countries. A figure that is more than double that registered in the entire year 2021. Of these, Italy corresponds to more than 1,700 GWh. Meanwhile, to the Netherlands there are more than 4,700, although in the last two months practically no shipments have been made to that country. These were concentrated, above all, in April and May.

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