Spain is Europe’s largest and the world’s third largest importer of LNG, after Japan and Korea. In 2008, its imports of 22.1 million t (29.8 billion m3) represented just over 50% of the European total. LNG met 73% of Spanish natural gas demand, making it the European country most dependent on LNG. The reason for Spain’s dependence on LNG lies in the geography of the country, with the Pyrenees Mountains having been a barrier to the construction of pipeline connections with the French and the wider European gas grid. As the largest importer of LNG it is not surprising that Spain has more LNG terminals than any other country in Europe.
Six facilities are currently in operation and a seventh, the El Musel terminal near Gijon in the north of the country, is under construction.
France is Europe’s second largest market for LNG, with imports of 9.5 million t (12.8 billion m3) in 2008. It is well connected to the European gas grid, and has the option of increasing pipeline imports into the north of the country and diverting LNG to alternative, higher priced markets. This has resulted in the level of LNG imports fluctuating over the last few years. France now has two terminals in operation, Montoir at the mouth of the River Loire on the Atlantic coast and Fos Tonkin near Marseille in the Mediterranean.
The UK and Italy were both early LNG importers and in both countries LNG imports were interrupted for extended periods of time. In the UK, the discovery of natural gas in the North Sea less than a year after LNG imports commenced, resulted in the country becoming self-sufficient in natural gas. LNG imports stopped when the original contract with Algeria expired in the early 1980s, and the terminal at Canvey Island was converted to an LPG facility. However, the rapid decline in North Sea gas production has resulted in the country turning once again to LNG imports. It now has four LNG receiving terminals in operation, two of which were commissioned at Milford Haven in southwest Wales in 2009.
Public opposition to LNG receiving terminals has resulted in Panagalia remaining the country’s only import facility, until August 2009, when the Adriatic LNG facility, a gravity based structure, located approximately 15 km (10 miles) off the Veneto coastline in northeast Italy, received its first cargo from Qatar. A second offshore terminal, this time using a ship as a floating storage and regas unit (FSRU), is being developed off Livorno in the northeast of the country. Construction of an onshore terminal at Porto Empledocle in Sicily is scheduled to start in 2010. Overall, Italy appears to be set for a significant increase in LNG imports, some 40 years after its first cargo arrived.
The Zeebrugge terminal in Belgium was built to receive LNG under the long term contract that the country’s main gas company, Distrigas, had with Algeria. The contract was not renewed when it expired in 2006 and the terminal has been used since 2007 mainly to import LNG from Qatar under a long term contract between Distrigas and RasGas.
Turkey turned to LNG imports in 1994 to reduce its dependence on pipeline imports, which come from Russia, Iran and Azerbaijan. It has two terminals in operation.
Portugal and GreecePortugal and Greece each have one LNG terminal, which was built to diversify natural gas supply from dependence on pipeline gas from Algeria and Russia respectively. Portugal’s main source of LNG supply is Nigeria, while Greece receives most of its LNG from Algeria.
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