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ships carrying gas are still circulating from Russia

Pipelines leading to the Bovanenko gas field on the Yamal Peninsula in northwestern Siberia on May 21, 2019.

During the war, the waltz of the boats continues. While the European Union has taken very strong sanctions against Russia since the invasion of Ukraine, one sector continues its activities as if nothing had happened: hydrocarbons. The European Commission has promised to diversify its gas and oil supplies to get out of dependence on Russian fossil fuels… eventually.

But, in the meantime, Europe needs large quantities of gas and, if it imports it mainly by gas pipeline from Russia, it has developed in recent years deliveries of liquefied natural gas (LNG) by ship. This shipping by sea accounted for around 20% of European gas imports in 2021, mainly from the United States, but also from Qatar, Russia, Nigeria and Algeria.

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The Yamal site, located in the Arctic, illustrates this new appetite – and even more so since the start of the war in Ukraine. This gas mega-site, owned by the Russian Novatek, the French TotalEnergies (ex-Total) and two Chinese entities, has a fleet of 15 huge icebreaker ships that transport gas cooled to an extreme temperature to make it liquid .

Income two to three times higher

Since February 24, 23 LNG carriers have left the icy waters of the port of Sabetta, near Yamal, according to an accounting carried out by The world, with the help of several experts. It must be said that the gas trade by ship has never been so profitable: given the surge in gas prices caused by the war, revenues are two to three times higher than in normal times. The 23 boats that left Yamal represent more than 3.7 billion cubic meters of gas imported since the beginning of the war. By way of comparison, in March 2021, Europe had imported half as much gas from the same source.

Several of these deliveries concerned France: four of these giants of the seas arrived in Montoir-de-Bretagne (Loire-Atlantique), near Saint-Nazaire, and a fifth in Dunkirk (North). The oil and gas groups ensure that these deliveries are necessary for the supply in the winter period of a Europe very dependent on gas. But a closer analysis of the data shows that several loads were actually transhipped. At least three ships heading for Europe have thus transferred their cargo to other ships heading for Asia, where the gas will be sold at even higher prices, given the strong Chinese demand. On Tuesday, at least nine ships from Yamal’s fleet were at sea loaded with gas to an unidentified destination.

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