LNG Import Vessel Arrives in Klaipėda

I don’t know about the rest of you, but for the past month or six weeks I’ve been feeling like I’ve fallen into advocacy limbo (or policy purgatory if you prefer):

  • The Department of Energy’s new LNG export procedures were put into place back on Aug. 15 (but nothing much has happened since then).
  • Congress has been on a pre-election recess since Sept. 19, and yet the mid-term elections are still a week away!
  • The Russian-Ukrainian gas stand-off is still unresolved (as it has been since June), even though there seems to be an announcement to the contrary every day or two.

So, while we wait for the other shoe(s) to drop, here’s a quick news item for your perusal:

Lithuania’s “Independence” has sailed in to the Port of Klaipėda and a gaggle of dignitaries today (Oct. 27) welcomed the arrival of the Baltic’s first LNG import vessel with pomp, circumstance, and (I hope) a little good champagne. (Amos Hochstein from State and Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) were among the Americans attending.)

The three Baltic countries—Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia—and their Nordic neighbor, Finland, have until today been 100 percent dependent upon a single, state-controlled natural gas supplier.

That this supplier is capable of and in fact has used its monopolistic position to both extract high prices for its gas and exert geopolitical leverage is a simple fact.

Fortunately, Lithuania’s LNG terminal, Latvia’s underground gas storage, Poland’s soon-to-be-operational import facility at Świnoujście, the long-awaited Finland/Estonia terminal(s), and various planned natural gas interconnectors will soon give our allies in the region far greater control over their energy destinies.

Will these nations continue to purchase natural gas from their traditional supplier? Yes, of course. But, the mere fact that they now have an alternative will increase their energy security dramatically and bolster their bargaining power when they sit down at the table (as they do every couple of years) to renegotiate the price clauses of their long-term contracts.

But, let’s return our attention state-side.

In a little more than a week, we will know the results of the mid-terms and—most importantly—find out if the Republicans will “capture” the Senate or if the Democrats will retain control.

And, before the end of the year we will know if the DOE will make good on its pledge to “promptly” grant final approval for applications to export LNG to non-FTA nations following completion of the NEPA documentation. (FERC granted final approval to two export terminals recently—Dominion’s Cove Point Project on Sept. 29 and Freeport LNG’s FLEX project on Oct. 17—so the DOE clock is “ticking” on those two projects.)

Thus, it appears that those of us on this side of the pond will be stuck in limbo for at least a little while longer.

The good people of Lithuania, on the other hand, must be feeling that their energy “purgatory” is nearing its end. Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė’s speech at today’s welcoming ceremony of the LNG vessel undoubtedly summed up the national mood of exuberance:

“In the twenty-fifth year of its re-independence, Lithuania stands proud of its strong spirit, courage and political will.

“Lithuania, the first of the Baltic States, has built a liquefied natural gas terminal. It is a strategic energy project that will determine our future. At the same time, it is Lithuania’s great victory…

“The Klaipėda LNG terminal will play a very special role—it will be a security guarantee for the whole region. If necessary, it will be able to cover 90 percent of the three Baltic States’ gas supply needs.

“From now on, nobody will dictate us the price for gas—or buy our political will.

“Once again we have proved to ourselves and to the world that our nation can protect its independence. Lithuania’s game-changing decision is manifested in the name of the vessel that has arrived today. We are the architects and the guardians of independence.

“Ladies and gentlemen, today’s event is a turning point on the path of our freedom and further proof that we can seek ambitious goals and stand responsible for the future of Lithuania. May it bring us together in solidarity. May it give us strength to create and rise to each and every challenge. Let it strengthen our confidence in ourselves and in Lithuania!”

Amen, Madame President. Amen!

Now all Lithuania needs is some U.S. LNG. Who’s ready to step up!