North America’s shale gas boom is chipping away at the market for gas producers like Russia. What’s more, if the United States becomes a gas exporter, Russia’s customers (especially in Europe) could decide to cancel expensive contracts with Gazprom in favor of cheaper American natural gas.Here’s the story from the FT:
“If the US starts exporting LNG to Europe and Asia, it gives [customers there] an argument to renegotiate their prices with Gazprom and Qatar, and they will do it,” says Jean Abiteboul, head of Cheniere supply & marketing.
Gazprom supplied 27 percent of Europe’s natural gas in 2011. While American gas is trading below $2 per MMBTU (million British thermal units), Gazprom’s prices are tied to crude oil markets, and its long-term contracts charge customers roughly $13 per MMBTU, says the FT. European customers would love to reduce their dependence on Gazprom and start to import American gas. Already Gazprom has had to make concessions to its three biggest customers, and others are increasingly dissatisfied with their contracts.Worse, from Russia’s point of view: evidence that western and central Europe contain substantial shale gas reserves of their own. Fracking is unpopular in thickly populated, eco-friendly Europe, but so are high gas prices.All this ought to give Russia serious heartburn. Eroding Gazprom’s dominance of the European energy market would be a major check on Russian economic growth and political influence.