Gas imports: new rules for pipelines from non-EU countries

Find out where Europe gets its gas from and what impact EU rules will have on pipelines such as Nord Stream 2.

infographic on gas infrastructure in the European Union
Natural gas pipelines in Europe, including Nord Stream 2 through the Baltic Sea

On 4 April MEPs voted in favour of extending EU gas market rules to pipelines coming from non-EU countries, including Nord Stream 2, a 1,200 km pipeline connecting Russia and Germany currently being built through the Baltic Sea.

The parts of those import pipelines that are in the territory of EU countries, including territorial waters, will have to meet the requirements that currently apply to the EU’s internal pipelines.

This means there should be a separation of gas supply/production from transmission business, other operators should be allowed to access pipeline capacity, while there needs to be a transparent regulation of transit tariffs. Exemptions are possible, but only if approved by the European Commission.

"Far too often, gas supply has been used as a political weapon. We cannot ‘disarm’ the impure intentions of others, but we can arm ourselves with full legal clarity and consistency of existing legislation. This is what our energy union as well as this amended directive is about," said Polish EPP member Jerzy Buzek, chair of the energy committee.

Gas consumption and imports

Gas is mainly used to heat homes and generate electricity. One fourth of the the EU's energy consumption comes from natural gas.

Many EU countries mostly depend on gas imports. More than 70% is imported and this is expected to increase further.

Main suppliers and routes

EU countries get their gas from a variety of places, as shown by data from the third quarter of 2018. Russia was the top supplier (47%), followed by Norway (34%), Algeria and Libya (8.6% combined).

The main supply route for Russian gas was Ukraine (Brotherhood Pipeline and the Balkan route) covering almost half of total imports from Russia, followed by Belarus (Yamal pipeline) covering about 20% and the Nord Stream 1 pipeline (30%).

Some 89% of gas is imported using pipelines, the rest is transported by ships as LNG.