Europe's energy supply may be more vulnerable this year as shipborne gas, relied upon to ease dependence on pipelines from suppliers like Russia or Libya, is likely to sail to more luc-rative fast-growing Asian markets, analysts said yesterday.
North-west Europe, especially Britain, depended on Qatar for nearly all of its liquefied natural gas (LNG) last year.
But Qatari LNG exports to Europe fell 22 per cent in 2011 due to higher demand in Asia after Japan shut down its nuclear power following the March tsunami, and as demand declined from crisis-hit economies in the south of the continent, analysts at Waterborne Energy said in a report.
"In total, 87 per cent of the LNG imported into north-west Europe in 2011 came from Qatar's two liquefaction plants, leaving the region vulnerable to the diversion of cargoes to higher-valued markets in 2012," Waterborne said.
Britain is particularly threatened by the prospect of lower Qatari supply to Europe — it bought all but one of its import cargoes from the world's top LNG exporter in the last five months of 2011, Waterborne said. Asian ports have also caught up with Britain in providing loading facilities big enough to cope with Qatar's huge Q-Max vessels, an analyst at European utility said.
"This was one of the reasons why Qatar was forced to sell to the UK," he said.
Japan's nuclear shutdowns following the earthquake and tsunami forced it to replace power production by burning, and therefore importing, more gas.
It imported an extra 3.17 million tonnes of LNG from Qatar between March and November 2011 compared with the same period in 2010, Waterborne figures showed.