Liquefied natural gas as an alternative to pipeline gas
The process of liquefying natural gas at minus 161 degrees Celsius, loading it onto tankers and regasifying it on arrival was both enormously demanding from a technical viewpoint and extremely expensive right up to the 1990s.
Although the first tankers full of liquefied natural gas (LNG) were arriving in the UK and France before the Netherlands began pipeline exports, and although LNG-receiving terminals were built in Italy, Spain and Belgium and later Turkey and Greece too, LNG growth rates remained modest. LNG did not emerge as a genuine alternative to pipeline gas until new developments in technology allowed it to compete on a level footing. By 2003, nearly 40% of the 525 BCM of gas consumed in Europe was imported from countries outside the continent, including 37 BCM in the form of LNG.
Despite their comparatively low volumes to date, LNG imports are playing an important role in the development of the European gas market. LNG is set to gain further significance in future thanks to its advantages over pipeline gas as regards transportation over longer distances and across deep oceans, for which building pipelines is not an option.