Russian gas will eventually return to Europe when nations 'forgive and forget', says Qatar's energy minister

Russian gas will eventually return to Europe when nations ‘forgive and forget’, says Qatar’s energy minister

On Friday, Russian energy provider Gazprom said it would not resume its supply of natural gas to Germany via the key Nord Stream 1 pipeline, blaming a malfunctioning turbine.

Hannibal Hanschke | Reuters

The European Union’s rejection of Russian energy products after Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine will not last forever, Qatar’s energy minister said during an energy conference over the weekend.

“The Europeans today say there is no way for us to go back” to buying Russian gas, Saad Sherida al-Kaabi, energy minister and head of state gas company QatarEnergy, told the Atlantic Council Energy Forum in Abu Dhabi.

“We’re all lucky enough to be able to forget and forgive. And I think things work out over time…they learn from that situation and probably have a lot more diversity.” [of energy intake].”

Europe has long been Russia’s biggest customer for most energy commodities, especially natural gas. EU countries have slashed their imports of Russian energy supplies, imposing sanctions in response to Moscow’s brutal full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Russian state energy giant Gazprom’s gas exports to Switzerland and the EU fell 55% in 2022, the company said earlier this month. The cut in imports has dramatically increased energy costs for Europe, sending oil and gas leaders and executives scrambling to develop new energy sources and shore up alternative supplies.

“But Russian gas is coming back, in my opinion, to Europe,” al-Kaabi said.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has so far claimed tens if not hundreds of thousands of lives, destroyed entire cities and exiled more than 8 million people as refugees. Russian missile and drone strikes regularly hit and decimate residential buildings, schools, hospitals and vital energy infrastructure, leaving millions of Ukrainians without power.

A destroyed residential building after a Russian missile attack on January 15, 2023 in Dnipro, Ukraine.

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Europe has managed to avoid a major crisis this winter, due to the mild climate and the significant gas reserves accumulated over the last year. Energy officials and analysts warn of a more precarious situation in late 2023, when these supplies run out.

“Luckily they [Europe] they have not had a very high demand for gas due to the warmer weather,” al-Kaabi said. the market through ’25, ’26, ’27… So I think it’s going to be a volatile situation for a while.”

Later during the conference, CNBC spoke with the CEO of Italian energy company Eni, Claudio Descalzi, who rejected the Qatari minister’s comments.

“I think the war is still there, and it’s not easy to forgive anyone when you kill innocent people, women and children and bomb hospitals,” Descalzi told CNBC’s Hadley Gamble. “And so I think that more than forgiving, we have to understand the meaning of the life of our words. For our modern warfare, because that is [what is] happening there So, when we talk about energy security, we talk about financing, how do you allocate your money, how much in gas, how much in renewables, and do you think people are killing near you or far from you… That’s the priority That’s what we have to solve.”

“Otherwise,” the chief executive added, “there’s a big elephant in the room. We hide these kinds of things from ourselves, and when we hide something [it] it’s getting bigger and bigger. If he’s forgiving, it means he’s not looking at that, he’s not thinking that we have to solve this kind of problem.”

Descalzi said that the war in Ukraine and energy security are a priority for him and his industry. Italy has drastically reduced its dependence on Russian gas by replacing it with energy sources from alternative producers, such as Algeria. On Sunday, Eni announced a new gas discovery in an offshore field in the eastern Mediterranean, off the coast of Egypt.

“Honestly, energy security is a big problem… but I think, in 2023, the priority is Ukraine,” Descalzi said. That is from my point of view. It’s Russia. It’s the relationship with China.”

“I’m not a politician,” he added, “but I think you can’t manage and talk about money and talk about energy and industry; it’s clear that if you don’t look at that, a lot of people are going to suffer.” But from the other side you talk about freedom, democracy and people who are dying.

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