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

Russian energy supplier Gazprom said on Friday it would not resume natural gas supplies to Germany through its main Nord Stream 1 pipeline, citing a faulty turbine.

Hannibal Hanschke | Reuters

Qatar’s energy minister said at the weekend energy conference that the European Union’s refusal of Russian energy commodities after Moscow’s aggression against Ukraine will not last forever.

Saad Sherida al-Kaabi, Minister of Energy and head of the state gas company QatarEnergy, said at the Atlantic Council Energy Forum in Abu Dhabi that “the Europeans are saying today that we have no way to buy Russian gas.”

“We’re all blessed to be able to forget and forgive. And I think things get better over time…they learn from it and probably have a greater diversity. [of energy intake].”

Europe has long been Russia’s largest customer of most energy products, especially natural gas. In response to Moscow’s brutal, large-scale invasion of Ukraine, EU countries have sharply reduced imports of energy supplies from Russia and imposed sanctions.

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

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

Russia’s aggression against Ukraine has so far killed tens or even hundreds of thousands of people, razed entire cities to the ground, and displaced more than 8 million people as refugees. Russian missiles and drones routinely hit residential buildings, schools, hospitals and vital energy infrastructure, leaving millions of Ukrainians without electricity.

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

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Europe was able to avoid a major crisis this winter thanks to mild weather and significant gas reserves built up over the past year. Energy officials and analysts warn of a more dangerous situation at the end of 2023, when those supplies run out.

“Fortunately they are [Europe] Due to the hot weather, the demand for gas has not been very high,” said al-Kaabi. “The question is what will happen when they want to fill their storages this year, and not much gas is coming. Market through ’25, ’26, ’27 … So I think it’s going to be a volatile situation for a while.”

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

“I think the war is still going on, and it’s not easy to forgive anybody when you’re killing innocent people, women and children, and bombing hospitals,” Descalzi told CNBC’s Hadley Gamble. “And that’s why I think that more than forgiveness, we need to understand the life meaning of our words. For our modern warfare, because it’s [what is] it happens there. So when we talk about energy security, we’re talking about financing, how you allocate your money, how much is in gas, how much is in renewable energy, and you think people are killing people near you or far away… So, the priority is what we have to address.”

“Otherwise,” the CEO added, “there’s a big elephant in the room. We keep things like this to ourselves, and when we keep something [it] it comes back bigger and bigger. If you forgive, then you don’t look at it, you don’t think that we should solve this kind of problem.”

Descalzi said the war in Ukraine and energy security are the focus of his and his industry’s attention. Italy has dramatically 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 off the coast of Egypt in the eastern Mediterranean.

“To be honest, energy security is a big problem… but I think the priority in 2023 is Ukraine,” Descalzi said. This is from my point of view. It is Russia. This is the relationship with China.”

“I’m not a politician,” he added, “but I think you can’t control money and talk about energy and industry – obviously if you don’t look at it, a lot of people will suffer. you are talking about people.”

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