The European Commission said on June 21 that it opened a formal investigation into Qatar’s exports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to the European economic area (EEA) in order to assess whether existing supply agreements “have hindered the free flow of gas” in breach of EU anti-trust rules.
State-owned Qatar Petroleum is the largest LNG exporter globally and in Europe. It controls several companies that produce and export LNG to the EEA, with the EC investigation focusing on whether the long-term agreements signed by these companies “contain direct and/or indirect territorial restrictions,” the Commission said.
“In particular, certain clauses contained in these agreements appear to, directly or indirectly, restrict the EEA importers’ freedom to sell the LNG in alternative destinations within the EEA,” the statement said. “If proven, such practices may breach EU antitrust rules, specifically on anticompetitive agreements between companies […] and/or on the abuse of a dominant market position.”
The EC cited the precedent of its case against Gazprom, where it found that the Russian gas company imposed territorial restrictions in the gas sector in the form of export bans and destination clauses. “The Commission established binding commitments on Gazprom that aim at enabling the free flow of gas at competitive prices in the Central and Eastern European gas markets,” the EC said.
Bulgaria was one of the countries affected by the Gazprom case, since the Russian firm supplies more than 80 per cent of Bulgaria’s annual gas consumption. It does not import LNG because it lacks the infrastructure to do so, although the issue has been discussed in recent years at senior government level between the two countries.
One possible avenue for Bulgaria to import LNG, whether from Qatar or elsewhere, is the project to build an LNG terminal near Alexandroupolis in Greece, from whence the gas could be shipped into Bulgaria once the much-delayed Bulgaria-Greece gas inter-connector pipeline is built.
(Photo: Marco Caliulo/sxc.hu)