KLAIPEDA, Lithuania (Reuters) - Lithuania received its first spot shipment of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the United States on Monday, the result of a deal aimed at reducing dependence on Russia and consolidating relations with Washington amid increased tension in the region.
Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 has spooked the Baltic states, once ruled from Moscow but now members of both NATO and the European Union.
“This is crucially important for the whole region,” said Lithuania’s Foreign Affairs Minister Linas Linkevicius.
“We want to cement our relationship with the United States in many aspects in addition to defense and security - energy trade is one of the strategic areas for cooperation,” he told Reuters.
The government estimates it will import half of its gas consumption in 2017 as LNG, mostly from Norway’s Statoil. The rest will be imported via a gas pipeline from Russia.
In June, Lithuanian state-owned trader Lietuvos Duju Tiekimas signed a deal with a unit of U.S. firm Cheniere Energy, its first direct import of LNG from the United States.
The LNG tanker from Sabine Pass in the United States moored in Klaipeda port on Monday.
The United States government was not involved in the deal between Cheniere and the Lithuanian trader, Howard Solomon, Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Lithuania, said.
The LNG is for clients in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.
More LNG supplies to Lithuania from Cheniere are expected next year, Lietuvos Duju Tiekimas CEO Mantas Mikalajunas said.
“We are happy to reach a point where importing gas from U.S. is not only politically desirable but also commercially viable,” Energy Minister Zygimantas Vaiciunas said.
Gas prices in Lithuania dipped in 2014 as it opened the LNG terminal, ending the gas supply monopoly of Russia’s Gazprom.
Polish state-owned trader PGNiG received its first U.S. LNG shipment in July. Speaking in Warsaw at the time, U.S. President Donald Trump said he hoped for many more shipments to Poland from the United States.
Reporting by Andrius Sytas; Editing by Simon Johnson and Louise Heavens