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EIA: Europe ends winter with the most natural gas in storage on record

Published by , Editorial Assistant
Tanks and Terminals,

As of 1 April 2023, natural gas storage inventories were 56% full – the highest percentage on record for the end of a heating season (1 November through to 31 March) – according to data from Gas Infrastructure Europe’s Aggregated Gas Storage Inventory (AGSI+). On 1 April 2023, natural gas storage in Europe totaled 2.02 trillion ft3, exceeding the previous record of 1.98 trillion ft3 at the end of winter 2019 – 2020 and the five-year (2018 – 2022) average of 1.21 trillion ft3. The winter of 2022 – 2023 was Europe’s second-warmest winter on record and the warmest January, according to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Most (97%) of the world’s LNG is consumed in the Northern Hemisphere, which experienced its fifth warmest winter on record. Europe’s relatively full storage results from exceptionally warm winter temperatures, which reduced heating demand. Europe‘s effort to conserve natural gas and record-high LNG imports also helped offset lower imports by pipeline from Russia. Reduced demand for spot LNG in Asia because of a very warm winter and limited onsite storage, which remained full during most of the winter season, redirected record volumes of LNG from Asia to Europe.

In 2022, European governments enacted policies requiring storage operators to maximise storage injections during the refill season to ensure availability of natural gas supply during winter. As a result, storage stocks on 1 November 2022 were 95% full, compared with the 12-year (2011 – 2022) average of 89%, exceeding storage levels at the start of the heating season in 2021.

Europe and the UK typically rely on natural gas imports to meet more than 80% of natural gas consumption. In 2022, they shifted supply away from pipeline imports from Russia. Russia’s natural gas exports to Europe, which had averaged 8.8 billion ft3/d during winter 2021 – 2022, declined by 87%, averaging 1.1 billion ft3/d this past winter. Although natural gas imports by pipeline from Norway increased to 11.3 billion ft3/d in 2022 (3% more than in 2021) and averaged 11.5 billion ft3/d during the winter, a significant increase in LNG imports helped to refill storage inventories and balance the market, offsetting the decline in pipeline imports from Russia.

Europe’s LNG imports remained high throughout 2022, averaging 14.9 billion ft3/d, 65% (5.8 billion ft3/d) more than in 2021. During this past winter, LNG imports averaged 16.3 billion ft3/d, reaching an all-time monthly high of 17.9 billion ft3/d in December. Europe was the main destination for US LNG exports in 2022. In 2022, the US remained the largest LNG supplier to Europe for the second year in a row, accounting for 44% (6.5 billion ft3/d) of LNG imports into the region during 2022.

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