Two U.S. officials and two industry sources reported that the U.S. government held discussions with several international energy companies about contingency plans to supply natural gas to Europe in case of conflict between Russia or Ukraine.
The United States is worried that Russia is planning to launch a new military attack against the country it invaded in 2014. Russia denies that it intends to attack Ukraine.
Around a third of the gas supplies to the European Union are dependent on Russia. Any sanctions by the United States over any conflict could cause disruption.
An energy crisis that is caused by a lack of fuel would be exacerbated if Russia’s gas supply is interrupted to Europe. Record power prices have pushed up both consumer and business energy bills, leading to protests in certain countries.
Two industry sources told Reuters that State Department officials approached companies to inquire about where additional supplies might be obtained if needed.
According to industry sources, the companies informed the U.S. government that global gas supplies are limited and that little gas is available to replace large quantities from Russia.
Amos Hochstein was the senior advisor for energy security at the State Department. This senior U.S. State Department official spoke on condition of anonymity. According to the official, the State Department didn’t ask companies for increased output.
A source said that they had discussed several contingencies and talked about what we were doing with our national partners and allies.
“We have done this with the European Commission but also with energy companies. It is accurate to say that they have spoken with us about our concerns, discussed a range of contingencies and asked about production.
The sources also said that U.S. officials wanted to know if companies have the ability to increase supplies and postpone maintenance if necessary.
It was not clear which companies U.S. officials had contacted. Royal Dutch Shell, ConocoPhillips (RDSa.L. ) and Exxon (XOM.N. ) declined to comment when asked whether they had been contacted. Chevron Corp, Total, Equinor and Qatar Energy didn’t immediately respond to a request.
Another industry source stated that his company could postpone maintenance at the gas fields if required.
The spokesperson for the U.S. National Security Council declined to comment on U.S. talks with energy companies but confirmed that contingency planning was in place.
The spokesperson stated that “Assessing spillovers and looking for ways to reduce them is good governance” and was standard practice.
“Any details in this area that are made public by the media only show the seriousness and detail with which we are discussing it and the willingness to impose substantial measures with our allies, partners, and allies.”
Moscow has armed the West with troops near Ukraine over the past two months, after it seized the Crimea peninsula in Ukraine in 2014. It also supported separatists fighting Kyiv soldiers in eastern Ukraine.
Biden previously stated to Vladimir Putin, Russian President, that any new Russian action on Ukraine would result in sanctions and an increase in U.S. presence throughout Europe.
Russia denies any intention to attack Ukraine and claims it is free to move its troops wherever it pleases.
According to the second industry source, “The United States has promised to be there for Europe if there is an oil shortage because of conflict or sanctions.”
Hochstein was also mentioned by Hochstein.
European buyers will need superchilled gas cargoes to make up for the loss of Russian pipeline supplies to Europe.
The U.S. is expected to increase its exports of liquefied petroleum gas (LNG), this year, making it the top global LNG supplier. Europe faces competition from top LNG suppliers like the United States and Qatar, as well as top consumers China or Japan, who are also facing an energy crunch.
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