Poland says it could eventually do without Russian gas

Aug. 7 (UPI) — Poland is willing to keep buying natural gas from Russia if conditions are right, though its economy is moving in another direction, the foreign minister said.

Poland relies on Russian energy company Gazprom for most of its natural gas shipments, though, like its European counterparts, it has tried to diversify its economy. A deal for shipments through a Russian natural gas pipeline expires in the next decade and Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski said the contract will be extended if Russia offers a better price.

“In five years, we will be at least less dependent on Russian gas, and maybe even independent of it,” he was quoted by Russian news agency Tass as saying. “We can cover a third of our needs with our own production, another third we expect to receive through the liquefied natural gas terminal and the remaining volume we expect to receive through a gas pipeline from Norway.”

Former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden lauded U.S. natural gas as a strategic asset during a tour of Eastern Europe last year. Several U.S. allies in the region rely heavily on Russia for natural gas, but are wary because companies like Gazprom control both the reserves themselves and the transit arteries that carry them.

Polish Oil & Gas, known by its acronym PGNiG, this year closed on a deal to accept LNG from Cheneire Energy, which owns a terminal in Louisiana that’s the only one with the permits necessary for current exports of U.S. natural gas.

The shipment arrived in June. A special permit is needed to send natural gas to countries without a U.S. free trade agreement, a scenario that could present roadblocks for future LNG exports to the European market.

European leaders have said LNG sourced from U.S. shale basins could present a source of diversity with the right infrastructure in place. A January review of the Polish economy from the International Monetary Fund, however, said the country faces external risks from a European Union threatened by the British exit and possible revisions of U.S. trade policies under President Donald Trump.

Piotr WoĽniak, the president of the Polish company’s management board, said sourcing LNG from outside of Europe gave the country a competitive edge. Without mentioning the United States in particular, Cecilia Malmstrom, the trade commissioner for the European Union, said “the scourge of protectionism” may create issues for multilateral trade.

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