Qatar Says It Can't Replace Russian Gas Supplies To Europe

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by Tyler Durden
Tuesday, Feb 22, 2022 - 08:06 PM

This morning, the FT summarized well the problem facing Europe as it decides whether to unleash draconian sanctions on Russia:

"Business magazine Wirtschaftswoche encapsulated the problem with a recent cover: Vladimir Putin controls Germany the way a dealer controls a junkie. Natural gas is the drug of choice.

The shrewdness of Putin’s strategy is clear now Russian tanks are rolling. Effective sanctions would ban Russian energy exports, or payments for them via the international banking system. But that severe blow to Russia’s resource-dependent economy would badly hurt Germans. The energy policy errors of their leaders are woefully apparent.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz has only halted a second pipeline, Nord Stream 2, now that Russia is invading eastern Ukraine. This would have doubled the capacity of imports to 110bn cubic metres.

The first Nord Stream pipeline system already supplies two-thirds of Germany’s imported energy. Half Germany’s 40m households keep warm using natural gas, 97 per cent of it from overseas.

Needless to say, the underlying logic behind this strategy is not lost on the Russians, and this morning none other than Putin's right hand man Dmitry Medvedev trolled the west, tweeting that "German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has issued an order to halt the process of certifying the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline" and gloating: "welcome to the brave new world where Europeans are very soon going to pay €2.000 for 1.000 cubic meters of natural gas!"

In immediate response, western media asked rhetorically "if such tweets will strengthen Europe's resolve to cut its dependence on gas and oil - two resources that it lacks and constrain its `strategic autonomy' aspirations" adding sarcastically that "some EU governments have been blaming renewables for gas prices" (and as even Goldman has noted recently, they are 100% correct to blame renewables for gas prices).

But while Europe may be living in some idealized universe where all of its energy needs can be met by LNG exports from the US, even an armada of tankers would not come anywhere near close to replacing Russian output.

The bigger problem for Europe is that even the increasingly hinted at "Plan B" would be insufficient.

As a reminder, the main reason (as even the FT conceded some time ago) behind the on again, off again western incursion into Syria and Qatar-funded attempts at revolution, had little to do with installing a democratic government, and everything to do with removing al Assad's pro-Russia regime so that Qatar could safely pass a pipeline through Syrian territory, which would then proceed toward Europe (Putin successfully quashed this ambition). Which means that any Qatar gas sent to Europe will have to come in LNG format, carried by ships (see "Biden Officials Talking to Qatar About Supplying Gas to Europe").

To Europe's chagrin, even Qatar is getting cold feet about such an ambitious strategy.

Speaking to reporters at a gas conference in Doha, Qatar energy minister Saad al Kaabi said that Qatar wants to meet European Union requests for additional supplies of liquefied natural gas, but that most of its exports are already tied to long-term contracts.

“Qatar is very clear about the sanctity of contracts,” Kaabi said, noting that “We are known for being strict and sticking to contracts through thick and thin.”

And while “European buyers have asked us for additional volumes” he warned that “we have said we will help but most of our LNG is tied up in long-term contracts.

Kaabi said he spoke with EU Energy Commissioner, Kadri Simson, “a few weeks back about more supply", but conceded that only about 10-15% of Qatar’s LNG contracts - most of which are with Asian countries - can be diverted elsewhere.

Qatar's bottom line: “no country can replace Russian supply to Europe” and that is music to Putin's ears, because having grasped long ago that no matter what he does, there is little Europe can counter unless the continent also wishes to effect economic suicide, the Russian president just called the Western bluff which warned day after day about "devastating sanctions."

Qatar Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and Vladimir Putin.

It's also why for all the jawboning fire and brimstone, Europe's sanctions will be quite toothless, something we already saw today when the EU and UK unveiled a list of five banks that would be sanctioned: the surprise - Sberbank and VTB, Russia’s two largest state banks, will not be included in the list.

Almost as if Europe is terrified of pursuing sanctions that are too harsh in response to Putin's "minor incursion" "invasion".