With 28 countries and a combined population of around 512 million people, the European Union is something of a prized market — and political battleground — for the world's largest energy exporters, particularly when it comes to natural gas.
Russia has long been the dominant source and supplier of natural gas to Europe's mass market but the U.S. is looking to challenge Russia by stepping up its imports of U.S. liquefied natural gas (LNG) — gas which is super-cooled to liquid form — making it easier and safer to store and transport.
Europe certainly appears keen to wean itself off Russian gas, and all the geopolitical implications that reliance entails, while making overtures to the U.S. Last July, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and President Donald Trump agreed to strengthen U.S.-EU strategic cooperation with respect to energy and the EU said it would import more LNG from the U.S. "to diversify and render its energy supply more secure."
Twenty-four percent of U.S. LNG went to the EU in October 2018, a month which saw the largest volume ever of EU-U.S. trade in LNG of almost 0.6 billion cubic meters. In the whole of 2017, only 10 percent of U.S. LNG exports went to the EU. The Commission, the EU's executive arm, expects U.S. gas exports to the region could double by 2022 and has vaunted the construction of LNG terminals across Europe.
"The fact is that U.S. LNG, if priced competitively, can play and increasing role in EU gas supply, enhancing diversification and EU energy security," the EU said in a document detailing the state of EU-U.S. LNG trade in late November.