Published On: Mon, Feb 5th, 2024
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Brexit Britain heading for showdown as UK tells EU to do more to curb Russian gas | Politics | News

Brexit Britain is poised for a bruising showdown with the European Union over member countries importing Russian gas. UK Energy Secretary Claire Coutinho will tell the EU to stop Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) imports amid concerns it could end up in Britain’s energy system.

The UK banned Russian LNG imports in January last year as part of a raft of sanctions imposed on Russia in the wake of Vladimir Putin widening his war on Ukraine.

Some EU countries still take LNG direct from Russia, with Britain at risk of importing it via pipelines in the Channel because of the complex network used to transport the fuel around the continent, according to Politico.

Experts have told the publication the risk of Russian LNG entering the UK is impossible unless there’s a ban across the whole of Europe. The EU has cut the amount of gas it buys from Russia, but countries including Belgium, France and Spain still import it. In 2022, the trade was estimated to be worth £13.6billion (16 billion euros).

Ms Coutinho told Politico she plans to tell Britain’s European allies to do more to drive Russian gas out of the market when she attends a meeting of the International Energy Agency (IEA) in Paris.

Tory colleagues are said to be pointing the finger in particular at Emmanuel Macron’s government, Politio reports.

Iain Duncan Smith said: “It’s astonishing France, [which] has done far less than the UK and Germany to support Ukraine, continues to undermine the sanctions regime by importing Russian LNG. The EU should call them out.”

The Energy Secretary told the publication: “We are working closely with European allies to help end their dependency and I plan to discuss this at our next IEA meeting in Paris.”

Experts have said the risk of Britain importing Russian gas is very small, with officials at the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero arguing it is unlikely gas originating from Russia is currently entering the UK.

However, they have acknowledged there is no way to trace the origin of every molecule of gas making its way to Britain through the pipelines. Unexpected disruption to gas imports from Norway and the US could increase the risk though.

LNG is a natural gas which has been reduced to a liquid state through a process of cooling and has been part of the UK’s energy mix for years.

It produces 40 percent less carbon dioxide (CO2) than coal and 30 percent less than oil, which makes it the cleanest of the fossil fuels, according to the National Grid.

The US has the world’s largest LNG exporting capacity (92.9million metric tonnes) followed by Australia (87.6m metric tonnes), Qatar (77.4m metric tonnes) and Russia (31.1m metric tonnes) as of October 2023, according to Statista.

Meanwhile, the BBC reports millions of barrells of Russian oil are still being imported into Britain despite sanctions.

The Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA) said a “refining loophole” means countries including India and China, who have not sanctioned the Kremlin, can legally import Russian crude and refine it into oil products such as jet fuel. Those countries then export such products to others, including the UK and EU.

Isaac Levi, Head of CREA’s Europe-Russia policy and energy analysis, told the broadcaster: “The issue with this loophole is it increases the demand for Russian crude and enables higher sales in terms of volume and pushing up their price as well, which increases the funds sent to the Kremlin’s war chest.”

Campaign group Global Witness has estimated that throughout 2023, some 5.2 million barrels of refined petroleum products produced from Russian crude oil were imported by Britain.

Most of the fuel imported – 4.6 million barrels – was for jets, which Global Witness researchers have told the BBC was used in one in 20 UK flights.

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