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Italy forced to wait as Qatar reroutes LNG vessels

A QatarEnergy vessel arrives at Italy's Adriatic LNG terminal. The latest shipment, due to arrive by February 5, has been cancelled QatarEnergy
A QatarEnergy vessel arrives at Italy's Adriatic LNG terminal. The latest shipment, due to arrive by February 5, has been cancelled
  • Result of Red Sea crisis
  • Gas delivery cancelled
  • Production unaffected

The conflict in the Red Sea has forced QatarEnergy to delay shipments of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Europe, with Italy the first country to be directly affected.

Italian energy company Edison said this week that a cargo scheduled to arrive at Italy’s Adriatic LNG terminal in Rovigo had been cancelled.

According to a message posted by Edison on Italy’s electricity market manager platform GME, the cargo was due to arrive by February 5.

Edison has a 25-year import contract with state-owned QatarEnergy, the world’s second-largest LNG exporter, for 6.5 billion cubic metres of LNG per year.

Qatar confirmed that production continues uninterrupted, but informed European clients there would be possible delays.

“While the ongoing developments in the Red Sea may impact the scheduling of some deliveries as they take alternative routes, LNG shipments from Qatar are being managed with our buyers,” QatarEnergy said in a statement on its website.

Qatar diverted seven shipments away from the Suez Canal between January 15 and January 17, according to data and analytics firm Kpler.

That included Europe-bound LNG tankers, which were south of Oman and took a longer course around Africa’s southern tip.

The company has also diverted vessels near Port Said, Northeast Libya, and north of Morocco, Kpler said in a note.

Navigating the Cape of Good Hope adds around two weeks to the journey and creates logistical issues.  

Massimo Di Odoardo, vice president of gas and LNG research at Wood Mackenzie, previously told AGBI that Qatar would need more ships to deliver the same volume if the Gulf state decides to divert ships around Africa to get to Europe. 

Companies also face difficulty refuelling and restocking as African ports struggle with congestion, poor facilities and bureaucracy.

Qatar produces 20 percent of the global LNG supply. It sent 14.9 million tonnes of LNG to Europe in 2023, just above 5 percent of EU and UK demand, according to Wood Mackenzie.

However, it became Italy’s most important LNG supplier, sending more shipments than the US, noted Francesco Sassi, Bologna-based Ricerche Industriali ed Energetiche energy researcher.

Italy has become reliant on LNG after the country turned to alternative sources in Africa and the Middle East to diversify away from Russian gas.

According to Kpler, Italy imported 4.92 million tonnes of LNG from Qatar out of a total of 12.09 million tonnes, equivalent to nearly 41 percent of its needs.

Besides Edison, other European companies including TotalEnergies, Eni and Shell have signed long-term LNG contracts beyond 2050 with QatarEnergy.

New shipments to European clients, including Italy, should start in 2026.

Spanish power utility Endesa, as well as some British terminals, have also been notified about delays.

Qatar told Endesa that there will be a delay of about 10-12 days with the Al Khor tanker, according to Reuters.

The ship is expected to arrive in Barcelona on February 23, following a journey that is more than a month long, according to LSEG data.

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