New England’s lack of pipeline infrastructure means the region is now reliant on natural gas shipments from an unlikely source — Russia.
Boston will soon receive a shipment of natural gas from an export terminal operated by Novatek — a company sanctioned by the State Department in 2014. Russian oil and gas shipments, however, aren’t covered by U.S. sanctions.
A French-owned tanker is on its way to Boston to deliver a shipment of liquefied natural gas to heat homes in New England. At least some of that gas is from Russia’s Yamal LNG terminal.
When the tanker lands, it will be the first-ever shipment of Russian liquefied natural gas (LNG) to the U.S. The shipment was delayed days ago by bad weather but is back en route, E&E News reports.
New England survived bitter Arctic cold this winter but at a high price. Federal and state policies have forced coal and oil power plants to close down in recent years, meaning the region has become more reliant on natural gas.
The problem is New England’s pipeline capacity hasn’t kept up with natural gas use, meaning the region must also import LNG from abroad.
During the recent cold snap, New England’s energy grid strained to keep up with skyrocketing energy demand. Russian Arctic gas will be used to replenish gas reserves depleted during the record cold.
“During the recent cold snap, LNG was absolutely vital in meeting customer needs,” National Grid, which owns Boston’s utility, told The Financial Times.
The Russian LNG shipment also highlights that while the U.S. is quickly becoming a global energy superpower, New England has actually moved in the other direction to become more reliant on energy imports.
Hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling into shale formations caused a U.S. energy boom, and U.S. natural gas production eclipsed Russia’s in 2016.
The Trump administration has made “energy dominance” a major policy priority, often involving the phrase when rescinding regulations. Indeed, the U.S. is expected to become a major natural gas exporter in the coming years.
The U.S. has also shipped LNG to countries neighboring Russia, which threatens the Kremlin’s grip on those countries. In July, U.S. producers sent the first-ever shipment of LNG to Poland.
The U.S. State Department touted the shipment, sending a clear message to Eastern Europeans that there’s an alternative to Russian state-run natural gas companies.
“U.S. LNG exports support American jobs, lower energy prices for our partners abroad, and contribute to Europe’s energy security goals using a reliable, market-based supplier,” spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in July.
Now, the Kremlin is using the LNG shipment to Boston to undermine predictions of U.S. energy dominance.
“This delivery completely contradicts the strategy of development of the American market,” wrote Kommersant, a leading Russian business newspaper reported, according to The Financial Times.
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