The U.S. Natural Gas Revolution: Will Europe Be Ready in Time?
The shale gas revolution in the United States is going to bring significant change to the global gas market. As more liquid natural gas (LNG) volumes and short-term opportunities become available, and with the once largest LNG importer set to possibly become an exporter, investment in LNG regasification capacity is flourishing in Western Europe, improving the diversification of sources and therefore overall energy security in the region. But the diversification challenge is felt more strongly on the eastern than on the western side of Europe. What can be done so that gas markets across the European continent are equally able to reap the benefits of the changes the global gas market is experiencing? Countries without LNG terminals will need to find ways to improve the conditions for gas shipping across borders. Europe has a developed gas network but there are still significant barriers to cross-border shipping, mostly of a technical nature: network infrastructure development but, more importantly, inefficient market rules. Can these obstacles be overcome in a timely manner, before other regions secure LNG imports and the global market is reshaped in a way that is unfavorable to Europe and the transatlantic region? The paper starts with a description of the emerging global glut, and of the incentives and disincentives to integrate markets in Europe. It then moves on to analyze the likelihood that changes will take place, and the policy measures that are needed in order to make the best of the situation, namely the need for a European “shipping passport” to enable easy cross-border exchange of natural gas, and a Fourth Package of measures for the liberalization of the gas market.