Each time there is a fallout between Russia and Ukraine, urgent calls are made for the European Union to free itself from Russian gas. The reality is that the EU is in a better state than it has been for two decades.
The EU has diversified its sources of gas considerably since the 1990s. More than 80% of the growth in imports now comes from countries other than Russia--especially Norway, Algeria, Nigeria and the Middle East.
Dependence on Russian gas almost halved in less than two decades, declining from 61% in 1995 to 34% in 2012. However, Russia remains the supplier which arouses most concern among European states.
The EU's primary energy mix remains dominated by fossil fuels. Natural gas accounts for about 25% of the EU's main energy consumption. The rest is provided by oil (37%), coal (18%), nuclear (12%) and renewables (10%).
The importance of natural gas, however, differs substantially from one country to the other. For instance, five of the EU's 28 members account for 68% of the EU gas demand the UK (18%), Germany (17%), Italy (16%), France (9%) and the Netherlands (9%). In other European countries such as Malta and Cyprus, natural gas is absent while Sweden's share is barely 3%.
More than 75% of domestic gas production is concentrated in two countries: the Netherlands and the UK. These two countries also account for 71% of the EU's proven gas reserves. Overall, the EU produces about 34% of its gas demand needs. The remaining 66% is met by imports, compared with almost 50% in 2002.
The EU's dependence on gas imports is expected to maintain its increasing momentum. Imports by pipeline are the dominant route; the rest is delivered by LNG, mainly from Qatar, Algeria, Nigeria, Norway, Trinidad and Tobago, Peru, Egypt and Equatorial Guinea.
Europe has built an extensive network of pipelines connecting it to major gas producers like Algeria, Libya, Norway, Russia and the UK. But the problem with pipelines is that the more countries they cross, the greater the risk of disruption.
Pipeline imports are delivered through three main gas corridors: the Eastern corridor (Russia); Northern corridor (Norway) and Western corridor (North Africa). The EU has been planning for a fourth, Southern corridor, which would bring natural gas from the Caspian region, the Middle East and East Mediterranean basin.
The Southern gas corridor was described by the European Commission as one of the EU's highest energy security priorities.