How has Europe’s natural gas industry changed over the past 30 years?

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As the European Autumn Gas Conference (EAGC) celebrates its 30th anniversary, Gastech News had the pleasure to ask James Ball, Founder of the EAGC and now Independent Director at Cheniere Energy Partners, for his thoughts on how Europe’s natural gas industry has changed over the past 30 years.

When we started the EAGC, the European gas business was a collection of national monopolies, mostly one per country (national champions), fighting for their lives against other energies and to prove gas was a reliable, secure source of supply. Some countries (like Denmark) had just built natural gas grids others were yet to come (east Germany for instance).

The national companies in turn were connected for the most part by large, jointly owned trans-national pipelines carrying supply from the major suppliers but not competing for national markets – that’s what the upstream suppliers did.

Upstream supply was dominated by Norway, the USSR, Algeria and the Netherlands … except for the UK, where multiple companies on the UKCS (offshore shelf) all sold to British Gas. Only France, Belgium, and Italy imported LNG, most of it from Algeria.

Then, over the course of 1990s, cooperation got renamed “collusion” and competition gradually became the policy imperative and security was redefined (old fashioned security returned to the agenda after the winter crises of 2006 and 2009). The LNG import family grew as did the global reach for supply. Gradually, companies “unbundled” and focused businesses either on trading or pipelines or international growth; all the while horizontally extending and contracting their business models. It’s now hard to find a pure gas company, or indeed a single nation one.

The industry is more commercial, much better served in terms of infrastructure and supply diversity, more competitive but under attack from a strange alliance of green-inspired renewables in league with a surging coal industry.

To meet key industry players from across the globe in celebrating 30 years of the EAGC, follow the banner below to register as a delegate:

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