Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has created an energy crisis of unprecedented levels, as reflected in the rapid increase in commodity prices. European countries and the United States have responded by sanctioning Russia, and Germany has halted certification of the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline. Concerns about the extent of Europe’s energy reliance on Russia, particularly for natural gas but also for coal and oil, are rising as the conflict worsens.
In this piece, Anne-Sophie Corbeau, a global research scholar with the Center on Global Energy Policy, answers questions about how deep Europe’s dependence on Russia is and how this adverse relationship developed.
How dependent is Europe on Russian gas?
In 2020, Europe, including Turkey, imported about 185 billion cubic meters (bcm) of Russian gas: 168 bcm of pipeline gas and 17 bcm of liquefied natural gas (LNG). This equates to about 36 percent of Europe’s total gas demand of 512 bcm. In 2021, by my estimates, Europe imported the same amount and in the same pipeline/LNG proportion, now approximately 34 percent of the higher 540 bcm of demand.
Meanwhile, the European Union imported 155 bcm of Russian gas in 2021, consisting in 142 bcm of pipeline gas and 14 bcm of LNG. The EU depends on Russian gas for 45 percent of its imports and around 40 percent of its consumption.
To put these numbers in perspective:
How did Europe become so dependent on Russian gas?
Reducing Europe’s dependence on Russian gas has been widely discussed for the past 15 years in Brussels. Despite alarm bells from a January 2009 crisis that led to the disruption of Russian gas transiting through Ukraine for two weeks and Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, Europe has not stemmed natural gas imports from Russia. In contrast, Russian pipeline gas deliveries to Europe increased post-2014, and Europe also started importing Russian LNG from the Yamal LNG project, which started in 2017.
There are essentially three reasons for this persistent dependence on Russian gas:
Figure 2: Europe’s gas demand, production, and imports
Sources: bp, and author’s estimates for 2021 based on IEA and Bloomberg.
Note: Demand and production plus imports do not match due to storage and exports from Europe.
 The definition of Europe includes EU27, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Georgia, Gibraltar, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, Switzerland, Turkey, and the United Kingdom.
 bp, Statistical Review of World Energy, July 2021, https://www.bp.com/en/global/corporate/energy-economics/statistical-review-of-world-energy.html.
 International Energy Agency, Gas Market Report – Q1-2022, January 31, 2022, https://www.iea.org/reports/gas-market-report-q1-2022.
 Gazprom’s data point to similar pipeline gas exports to Europe in 2020 (174.9 bcm), see Gazpromexport, Delivery statistics; and in 2021 (total pipeline exports of 185.1 bcm), see O. Tanas and D. Khrennikova, “Gazprom misses 2021 gas export targets straining European gas markets,” World Oil, January 3, 2022, https://www.worldoil.com/news/2022/1/3/gazprom-misses-2021-gas-export-targets-straining-european-markets.
 European Commission, “REPowerEU: Joint European action for more affordable, secure and sustainable energy,” March 8, 2022, https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/IP_22_1511.
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