War in Ukraine: LNG is presented as an alternative to Russian gas

Liquefied natural gas  takes up 600 times less space than in gaseous form, but is more polluting than that transported via gas pipelines.

War in Ukraine: LNG is presented as an alternative to Russian gas
Storage of liquefied natural gas in Montoir-de-Bretagne (Loire-Atlantique).  (MAXPPP)

To emancipate itself from Russian gas, which today represents 40% of European gas consumption, Europe is increasingly considering turning to LNG imports. Liquefied natural gas is made liquid by lowering its temperature to minus 163°C. The enormous interest is that, in this liquid form, it occupies 600 times less space than in gaseous form. As a result, that makes it transportable by boat – by LNG carrier – a much more flexible mode of transport than the gas pipeline because it allows imports from more distant countries. The three largest LNG exporters in the world are Australia, Qatar and the United States.

This LNG from elsewhere could thus completely replace the Russian gas transported by pipeline to Europe in the immediate future. On Wednesday March 9, the President of the European Commission, Ursula Von der Leyen indicated that Europe has bought enough liquefied natural gas to be able to do without Russian gas until the end of winter. In the longer term, on paper, Europe could also import enough LNG to compensate.

Practical, but more polluting

It would be very expensive for us because of the competition in the market which drives up the stakes. In addition, it would be necessary to invest because Europe lacks infrastructure to receive this liquid gas, regasify it and distribute it. Germany, Europe's leading gas market, does not have LNG import terminals. Here in France, only four ports can accommodate LNG carriers, and twice as many would be needed. In short, in a context of global warming, some people wonder about the relevance of such investments for gas which is even more polluting than gas imported by pipeline.

Natural natural gas requires additional energy to liquefy it, transport it and turn it back into gas, which makes it polluting. This doubles the carbon impact of LNG, compared to pipeline gas, explains Alexandre Joly, from the firm Carbone 4 , which specializes in energy transition.

Moreover, if we import American gas, for example, it is mostly shale gas , therefore from fractionated rocks. However, it is an exploitation criticized for its impact on the soil and the environment because of the leaks of methane, which it generates. In short, LNG can only be a partial solution, which should be coupled with energy sobriety, pending the development of renewable energies.


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