EU Bans LNG Equipment Exports to Russia

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The EU has banned exports of liquefaction equipment to Russia, further complicating — if not ruining — the Kremlin’s vast LNG expansion plans.

The export ban is part of the EU’s fifth sanctions package imposed on Apr. 8 in response to the Kremlin’s “brutal aggression against Ukraine and its people,” according to the European Commission.

The package includes a ban on coal imports from Russia with a wind-down period of four months, full transaction ban and asset freeze for four Russian banks, a ban on Russian and Belarusian freight road operators in the EU, a port ban on Russian-flagged vessels with exemptions for energy and some other cargoes, expanded export and import bans and other measures, the commission said in a statement.

The full text of the measures published in the EU Official Journal reveals that although immediate supplies of LNG from Russia are not targeted at this stage, Russia’s new LNG projects are at even greater risk than before.

Moscow sought to produce up to 140 million tons per year of LNG by 2035, up from around 30 million tons/yr currently, and become a top four exporter alongside Qatar, the US and Australia. But after Russia sent troops to Ukraine on Feb. 24, prompting international sanctions and an exodus of foreign partners, Russian projects were put on hold to assess the possible impact.

Targeted Equipment

The latest sanctions might prove to be decisive, because they target equipment for which Russia has no domestic analogues. The EU has banned the sale, supply, transfer or export — direct or indirect — of goods and technology suited for use in the liquefaction of natural gas, originating in the EU or not, to any person or entity in Russia or for use in Russia, according to the EU Official Journal.

The banned equipment includes process units for gas cooling, process units for the separation and fractionation of hydrocarbons, process units for the liquefaction of natural gas, cold boxes, cryogenic exchangers and cryogenic pumps.

Russia imported 100% of cryogenic heat exchangers for medium-sized and large LNG plants in 2019 and 95% of cryogenic pumps in 2019 and planned to reduce these shares to 80% and 40%, respectively by 2024, according to the country’s import replacement program.

Projects at Risk

Contracts concluded before Feb. 26, 2022 must be terminated by May 27, meaning that even projects already under construction are at risk — including Novatek’s 19.8 million ton/yr Arctic LNG 2 and Gazprom’s 13 million ton/yr Ust-Luga.

Prospects are also dim for projects in earlier stages of development, including A-Property’s 18 million ton/yr Yakutia LNG, Exxon-abandoned 6.2 million ton/yr Russia Far East LNG (RFE LNG) and a series of Novatek’s Arctic plants. Novatek has planned to produce up to 70 million tons/yr in the Arctic by 2030, up from 19.6 million tons in 2021.

The first 6.6 million ton/yr train of Arctic LNG 2, more than 80% complete, might be safe, because all key equipment is understood to have been supplied, although sanctions-driven financing difficulties may delay its launch, scheduled for 2023. The second and third trains are now a big uncertainty. First modules for the second train have been expected only in May this year while modules for the third train are supposed to start arriving in May 2023, Novatek said in mid-February.

LNG Projects, Sanctions
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