New data reveals that Spain is importing 84% more Russian liquid natural gas (LNG) than it did before the invasion of Ukraine, in a clear break from EU trends. Spain increased its reliance on Russian gas following a diplomatic dispute with Algeria over the contested Western Sahara region, which saw Algerian energy imports slashed.
The news may put Spain on a collision course with the EU, which has repeatedly affirmed its desire to reduce dependence on Russian hydrocarbons. Russian gas imports to the EU dropped below 13% last year. EU officials are currently pondering whether to include natural gas in future sanctions.
Spain was Europe’s top buyer of Russian LNG after Belgium and France, with €944 million worth of total hydrocarbons purchased in 2022. Russian LNG imports made up 14.2% of total Spanish energy needs in 2022, an increase of 8%. All Russian gas came through the Spanish energy company Naturgy, which has contracts lasting until 2038.
Spain was forced to diversify its energy sources following worsening relations with Algeria over Madrid’s perceived pro-Moroccan stance in a dispute over control of Western Sahara. Algeria, which provides 20% of Spanish gas needs, threatened to terminate all exports in April 2022 as exports dropped 41%.
Algerian energy imports to Spain have returned to normal as Algiers signed a major gas deal with the new Italian government.
American LNG imports to Spain increased by 48% over the same period, with Spain briefly becoming the U.S.’s largest LNG buyer in May 2022. Europe has seen a spike in American LNG imports as the continent seeks to replace Russian supplies.
EU nations are preparing gas storage facilities for the year ahead, with Spain being accused of amassing Russian gas. Under new EU sanctions announced this month, member states will not be able to store Russian gas.