US Gas Will Never Replace Russian Gas For Europe

Recent entreaties by various US politicians to help wean Europe off of Russian gas are simply preposterous.  The numbers don't add up, and they never will.

Let's begin with the facts:

16% of natural gas consumed in Europe flows through Ukraine

Mar 14, 2014

Europe, including all EU members plus Turkey, Norway, Switzerland, and the non-EU Balkan states, consumed 18.7 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of natural gas in 2013. Russia supplied 30% (5.7 Tcf) of this volume, with a significant amount flowing through Ukraine. EIA estimates that 16% (3.0 Tcf) of the total natural gas consumed in Europe passed through Ukraine's pipeline network, based on data reported by Gazprom and Eastern Bloc Energy.


If the US wants Europe entirely off of Russian natural gas (NG), it will have to immediately replace 5.7 trillion cubic feet per year, or 15 billion cubic feet per day.

The entire set of US shale gas plays, which consist of 8 major plays and a slew of minor ones, cumulatively provide the US with 27 billion cubic feet per day.  That is, just over half of the entire current US shale gas play would have to be dedicated to the European cause of eliminating Russian natural gas dependency.  

And even with the shale plays, in April 2014 the US remains a net gas importer. In 2013, the most recent full year of data, the US had to import 1.3 trillion cubic feet to satisfy domestic consumption.

More pointedly, 2013 was a pretty cold winter, the kind that comes along every so often, and the US barely made it through that period without running dangerously low on NG as it was.  

To make it through the heavy demands of winter natural gas must be stockpiled in advance. As a result, the gas storage report always shows seasonal builds and draw downs of natural gas:


In all my years of watching the energy statistics I've never seen NG storage get this low. Look how far below the average 5 year range it got...all the way down to just 800 billion cubic feet in storage.

And this was with the "shale gas miracle" chugging along merrily in the background.

If the US had magically managed to have the appropriate liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals all built and had wanted to completely supply Europe with US gas to replace Russian gas, it could have only done so for 53 days (800 bcf/15 bcf/day) before the US would have completely run out of its gas in storage.

Of course, this could never be done. If NG ever gets too low in storage, you run the risk of having the pressure drop in all the associated pipelines and delivery systems to such a low level that things have to be shut down. Pilot lights go out, system pressures falter in some areas before others, turbines can't be run, and industrial processes terminate.

If you thought the winter of 2013 was hard, imagine it with the added specter of having to re-light every residential pilot light in a region.  There are not enough service people to do that.

And well before a crisis moment like that arrives, a form of utility triage would be implemented; Step 1 of which would be shutting off exports of LNG to Europe and any other ex-US destinations.

What then would Europe do?  Freeze and suffer through its own chain of shortage-related failures because the US could not actually supply what was needed?

What would quickly happen is that Europe would return to Russia for at least part of its gas needs.  So all that the US could ever do, realistic or not, is supplant some of Russia's role as NG supplier to Europe.

Rising US Production

At this point, some might say that the ability of the US to export natural gas will rise because US domestic production is rising.  While true, two things weigh on this view to render it moot.

The first is that European domestic gas production is falling. Norwegian production is going down, and North Africa remains a mess that cannot be counted upon to reliably increase its production over its consumption over any time frame you care to choose.  So rising US production will be countered by rising US demand and falling European production, both of which will erode the apparent 'surplus' in the US that so many are (innumerately) counting on.

The second is because liquefying natural gas is enormously energy-intensive and expensive.  To ship vast quantities of natural gas across the Atlantic, we'd need to liquefy it first. Fully 25% of the energy embodied in natural gas (NG) is wasted during the process of turning it into a liquid (LNG).  That energy is simply gone: those expended BTUs cannot ever be used for anything else.

So when it's noted that Russia supplies 5.7 trillion cubic feet, that's of ordinary gas in its rightful gaseous form (NG).

The equivalent in US gas would be (5.7/0.75) = 7.6 trillion cubic feet (of NG) to account for the energy loss in the liquefying process (to make LNG).

In short, LNG is just an energetically stupid thing to do. It is wasteful.

Economically Unworkable

The final nail in the "US will supply Europe's gas" coffin is simple economics.

US LNG could be produced and shipped for about $9 per thousand cubic feet.  Russia produces theirs for $.50 for the same amount and can sell it for a price well below $9 for as long as they wish.

People investing in an LNG terminal are tying up billions and billions in the project. They cannot invest in such a project because Europe might need gas for the next 2 or even 20 months because of temporary hostilities with Russia. They need 20 years of expected profitable sales to justify the expense. 

Who thinks that the West is in any position to place a 20+ year permanent ban on Russian energy exports to Europe?  Anybody?

A sanctions regime is the only thing that would make LNG from the US to Europe an economically workable proposition.

The truth is, there are a great many voices asking for LNG to be exported from the US but the real reason has nothing to do with Russia or Europe.  The real reason is that the domestic NG industry would love to get much higher prices for their product than they are currently getting and LNG terminals is one way to help level the price playing field between the US and the rest of the world.

Europe won't get its independence from Russia, but US consumers will pay more.


There's nothing sensible about the recent attempts to link US LNG exports to freeing Europe from its dependence on Russian NG.

The numbers just don't work.

Worst of all, those proposing such schemes seem delightfully unaware that even the robust quantities of NG that the US seems to have are also finite, and that you get to use the embodied energy exactly once.  But that's it.

Use that energy to liquefy the NG in LNG and you cannot then use that energy to make fertilizer, or erect a new electrical pylon, or build out a next generation mass transit system, or rebuild depleted soils.

By this viewpoint, calls to turn our domestic NG into LNG are ignorant at best; a crime against future generations at worst.  Perhaps they're both.

But have no fear, Europe is not staffed by ignorant dummies and they will not risk their present and future prosperity by cutting off Russian imports of NG simply to appease US policy hawks or help the sitting president achieve some sort of political victory back home.

So it's highly unlikely that Europe will be clamoring for US LNG to the point that it would agree to a 20-year ban on Russian NG exports.  Given this, it's doubtful that the Ukrainian situation will translate into any significant actions on the US LNG front.

~ Chris Martenson

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

C'mon man!  Where's your can do spirit?!  
This is 'merica!

sarcasm off. . .

I can't stand it any longer.  The old saw about telling a lie enough times really is true. Where I live it's pretty much a "fact" that we are going to out produce Saudi Arabia in ten years.  Yea!

I would suggest every one of us who reads this in the USA send a copy to our representatives in Congress.  It is succinct, it is convincing and the conclusion should leave any member of Congress wanting to save face by opposing LNG production in 'merika.

There might be other ways to supply gas to Europe:

I haven't heard anything about this for a long time but wouldn't be surprised if it is still part of the plan.  The Nabucco pipeline was once talked of but probably hasn't gone anywhere.  I'd like to hear if anyone knows more about it.

The US residential gas boilers still have pilot lights?
for years now here in the UK and Europe new boilers do not have pilot lights. They use auto ignition instead.

Let's assume for the sake of argument that European policy makers have access to this kind of information and that they have the best interests of their people in mind.  How do they respond?  My hypothetical response to a hypothetical question is that they continue to appease the drunk uncle who has been showing off his hand gun at the party for the last 70 years ('merica), until he passes out in a drunken stupor.  Thereafter they make nice with the last person holding any real cards at the table (russia).  As an american my hope is that when we reach that point the power players will be more interested in preserving their own cultures than retaliating against ours. Unfortunately in this scenario both sides will have just enough energy left over to make some royally stupid decisions if they choose to go that route.
The data I missed in this article is how long Russia can supply Europe before they run into supply issues.  It feels like the bar keep just gave last call and now we're all looking around to see who has the most left in their cup to keep the good times rolling as long as possible.

In this interview Dr.Paul Craig Roberts interprets the entire situation as a crazed philosophy by NeoCons to start a nuclear war with Russia. They believe that it is survivable.
If you meet one in the street, go and shake him by the hand. Amazingly brilliant strategy. Such Subtlety, such wisdom.

Do we still breed such humans? You womenfolk have a lot to answer for. A lot more emphasis on Quality please girls.


You know I get this and most people on Peak Prosperity do.  What I still don't get is why almost everyone else doesn't.  There was an article recently on Peak Prosperity discussing the way people think and make decisions.  I read it and I guess it didn't sink in.  That's an area I need to become more clear on.
If we don't understand how others think, how can we hope to change their minds. 


I use to write congress.  I never noticed any impact from the dozens of emails I sent.  Elected officials are going to do what their key contributors tell them to.

In the conclusion there is a reference to rebuilding soils with synthetic fertilizer. My experience is that the use of Ammonium Nitrate mostly results in the destruction of soil biology.

Mr. Cheney crowed that we create the reality.
In other words when we say something it makes it so because we say it.

This is a dangerous and solipsistic thought process that explains why we have done nothing in this country to change into at least a combination of energy sources that could have conserved fossil fuels, but instead the economic model would not allow for this and we went global, gave over our manufacturing base to China and other low wage states. We also keep using up oil in the transport of goods.

The fracking is dangerous and uses up potable water supplies, so I have no idea how we are going to survive this madness.

My answer to Cheney's solipsism is a quote by Orwell:

We are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue, and then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right.  Intellectually, it is possible to carry on this process for an indefinite time: the only check on it is that sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield.
—George Orwell (1946)



perhaps just another ploy to get americans to be thankful the gas is staying home, so much so that they don't protest a rise here in NG prices. the price increase is in the works. why do we have to endure and even debate the nonsense that is only meant to prepare our emotions for a rise in prce?
i currently have a NG furnace but it is  a luxury not a necessity. i use about 20 ccf/month for 5 months out of a year then nothing the other 7 months.i heat mostly with solar and wood.

perhaps some of you should be focussing more on your dependence of NG and not worry about europe or any of this other nonsense.



[quote=Oliveoilguy]In the conclusion there is a reference to rebuilding soils with synthetic fertilizer. My experience is that the use of Ammonium Nitrate mostly results in the destruction of soil biology.
Yeah, that could have been confusing.  I wasn't thinking of fertilizers but of the work required to build soil.  Several years of planting and growing a rotation of carbon and nitrogen fixers is what I was thinking of.
That takes energy if you want to do it at scale.  We could use the work embedded in NG to accomplish that.
Or not.
It's all about the choices we make.

The majority of the population pretty much only understand short-term gain and react heavily to their feelings. Unless you can present short-term value and offer an abundance of positive emotion with it you probably are going to be talking to a wall. As most of here have already done. The few people I can talk to in the real world have the 'N' or intuition trait which is by far the most important for understanding the data here. My best conversations are with an ENFP.Based on that Myers-Briggs study for PP, there seems to be an order of operations of traits that would allow a person to be here at Peak Prosperity. The critical, more rational traits are more prone to understanding the "big picture" whereas the emotional, "in-the-moment" minded folks (ESFP) probably can't absorb the "big picture," like at all. Then you have the middle ground folks that you are able to target to varying degrees of difficulty.
But here is what I think the order of operations are…
Likely to understand : N, I, T, J, P, F, E, S : Less likely to understand
The more traits scored to the left, the more likely they can be reached out to. 11% of the sample group here score S, but they scored VERY heavily in I, T, and J to make up for it. 

I've seen and many other pasture farmers (esp. those converted from row commodity crops) have seen both the devastation and salvation of land fertilized by NG derived nitrogenous fertilizer.the dead concrete like soil that followed years of row cropping was beautifully revived in two years using NPK, grass, legume, and forbe seed and MIG, maanaged intensive grazing. The land (oliveoilguy bring your camera) has required no inputs for years now and is lush, drought resistant, and supporting 1.2 animal units/acre.
NPK,derived by and from fossil fuels,  can be useful to speed up reclamation and jump start the biomass ruminants require. The ruminant then spreads the organisms necessary to jump start soil life.
first i was a farmer, then i became a cattleman, then a grass farmer, then a pasture farmer, then a mycete farmer, then a …

Thanks, Chris, for improving our energy literacy.  I have shared this article on my Facebook page.
Aggrivated, I like your suggestion to write a letter to our Congressional reps. in opposition to natural gas exports.  Even if only one aide sees the letter, and it has no effect on the policy decision this time, it at least exposes some people in Washington to better information about how energy relates to policy, and also to Peak Prosperity and the three E's.

After reading your post, I went to the Facebook page of one of my Senators and forwarded her the link to Chris' article.  I also wrote her a short note, most of which is shared below if anyone wants to use it as a template.  I sent basically the same message to her via her contact form on her official Senate web page, but I like the Facebook option better because when you include the link to Chris' article there, it inserts the nifty picture of the Russia-Ukraine-EU gas line tied in a knot, which is more likely to grab an aide's attention.  Les, even if it has no effect, it can't hurt, but I can definitely relate to your frustration.  smiley

Here's the letter I sent, in case anyone wants to use it as a template.

Dear Senator X,  (or Representative X)

My name is FIRST LAST and am a resident of CITY, STATE.
The article linked in this message, "US Gas Will Never Replace Russian Gas for Europe", demonstrates that exporting natural gas to Ukraine or elsewhere would be harmful to the US economy and would also not result in effective foreign policy.
The article is written by Dr. Chris Martenson, an expert in the relationship between the economy and energy production.  It's well-written and well-researched, using data from the U.S. Energy Information Agency and elsewhere.
I hope that you and your staff are willing to take the time to read this succinct article and to consider opposing S. 2083 - The American Job Creation and Strategic Alliances LNG Act - since this bill would not result in realistic energy policy or realistic foreign policy.   
Kind Regards,
**************End of template*****************
Note: It's important to make sure that the URL is at the bottom of the message so it's easy for the staff member to click and read the article
Here's a little more info regarding this topic that I found after reading the article:

Relevant legislation and positions of selected US public officials on natural gas exports:

S. 2083 American Job Creation and Strategic Alliances LNG Act   This senate bill, sponsored by Mark Udall D-CO would allow for natural gas exports to WTO members, including Ukraine.

In support of natural gas exports: Note that this is a partial list.  I don’t know the positions of any other public officials on this question.  However, as far as I can tell at this point, it seems there's more support for LNG exports than there is opposition.

Sen. Mary Landrieu D-LA & Chair of the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee

Sen. Lisa Murkowski R-AK

Sen. Udall D-CO & Sponsor of S.2083

Sen. Mark Begich D-AK & cosponsor of S.2083

Rep. John Boehner R-OH & Speaker of the House

In opposition to natural gas exports:

Sen. Ed Markey D-MA


Secretary of the Department of Energy Ernest Moniz has so far taken no clear position



Thanks for keeping the Myers-Briggs results in the conversation WT… I really do think there is much there to be mined.  Why have you, or me, or many of us here developed the ability to see through the matrix, while the majority of the population has not, and will not even when it's explained to them?  

    Sensing and intuition are the information-gathering (perceiving) functions. They describe how new information is understood and interpreted. Individuals who prefer sensing are more likely to trust information that is in the present, tangible, and concrete: that is, information that can be understood by the five senses. They tend to distrust hunches, which seem to come "out of nowhere".[1]:2 They prefer to look for details and facts. For them, the meaning is in the data. On the other hand, those who prefer intuition tend to trust information that is more abstract or theoretical, that can be associated with other information (either remembered or discovered by seeking a wider context or pattern). They may be more interested in future possibilities. For them, the meaning is in the underlying theory and principles which are manifested in the data.

So these are the traits many of us N-types share... pattern recognition, and the ability to, in my words, extrapolate.  How to reach those S-types?  Do they have to wait for the world to be in disarray before the hammer of reality hits them in the head?  The matrix of manipulated markets and unsustainable levels of Socialism/Gov't transfer payments will keep up appearances a while longer I suppose.              
Extraversion (E) (I) Introversion
Sensing (S) (N) Intuition
Thinking (T) (F) Feeling
Judging (J) (P) Perception
For those like me who cannot remember the Meyers-Briggs dichotomies. Perhaps I am alone in this so I will post it for myself at least :)



Aloha! Every Empire suffers from "Empire Complex". That is where the leaders of the Empire are forced to act in a way they never wanted to in order to save face. No better example of that exists in literature than the short story written by George Orwell, "Shooting an Elephant". This is the last paragraph …
Afterwards, of course, there were endless discussions about the shooting of the elephant. The owner was furious, but he was only an Indian and could do nothing. Besides, legally I had done the right thing, for a mad elephant has to be killed, like a mad dog, if its owner fails to control it. Among the Europeans opinion was divided. The older men said I was right, the younger men said it was a damn shame to shoot an elephant for killing a coolie, because an elephant was worth more than any damn Coringhee coolie. And afterwards I was very glad that the coolie had been killed; it put me legally in the right and it gave me a sufficient pretext for shooting the elephant. I often wondered whether any of the others grasped that I had done it solely to avoid looking a fool.

Empire becomes tiresome, even for those who are doing the Empiring! Empire has its own prison. How would our leaders go about not being Empire? Could Obama just make a speech one day and say, "Yeah, you know we're tired of always having to run around the world enforcing shit so we're done. Anyone else out there wanna be Empire now?"

Read the book to see all the nuances of Empire that Orwell describes and it is mostly from the stigma of being one of the Empire's cronies, the enforcers, which would be the military. Empire also is very costly and the Empire always suffers much debt!

Empire is a prison and we Americans are serving time and as I see it our sentence ends when Empire ends. Perhaps there is an enormous feeling of freedom after that. I would not know since all my life I have been living within the image and having to carry the American Empire wherever I go in the world. Maybe some Brits can tell us how it feels to lose Empire status.

Kaimu,In response to your line: Maybe some Brits can tell us how it feels to lose Empire status.
Yes, they set-up a seat at the table of fallen empires. Our global neoliberal cant is wholly unsustainable. I'm afraid without a very strong rich ally; when this collapses, it will be way harder for us than it was for GB. Add insult to injury–peak resources and squandered capital.

I learned a lot from this Myers-Briggs poll as it's probably the closest thing we can get to real data that can answer the question that troubles all of our minds. Why can't we get our loved ones to see what we can see?While there is no way of knowing what the real % alignment there is to one personality trait over the corresponding trait. The studies show that I,N,T are minority traits. To have all three is so rare that only about 2-5% of the population are INTxs. Well over 50% of the group here are INTxs…
There is a lot of reflection and understanding to be found in our sample group here. We are exceptional personalities and profound thinkers. No doubt about that.
Peak Prosperity is a special place