MOSCOW (Reuters) - A Russian tanker headed to the United States to pick up a cargo of liquefied natural gas (LNG) could prove an embarrassment to President Vladimir Putin who has accused the U.S. of undercutting his country’s gas exports.
U.S. seaborne LNG is seen as a threat to Kremlin-controlled gas company Gazprom’s dominance of the gas market in Europe where it accounts for more than 35% of supplies.
Two industry sources told Reuters that energy trader Gunvor has leased the Marshal Vasilevskiy tanker from Gazprom for loading an LNG cargo in the United States.
According to Refinitiv Eikon data, the tanker - a floating storage and regasification unit (FSRU) - which can also act as an LNG vessel - departed from the port of Rotterdam on Nov. 4.
It is due to arrive at the Sabine Pass LNG terminal on Nov. 26 and loading is scheduled for Nov. 29.
The terminal in Louisiana is part of President Donald Trump’s “energy dominance” plan that seeks to maximize oil, gas and coal production.
The Russian ship’s voyage comes at a time when Gazprom’s deliveries of pipeline gas to Europe are expected to fall this year from a record-high of more than 200 billion cubic metres in 2018, as Europe seeks to reduce its reliance on Russian gas.
The tanker was previously leased to Austrian company OMV from August until November.
Gazprom and OMV declined to comment on the vessel’s movements and Gunvor did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
It was unclear where the Russian tanker would go after collecting its cargo from the United States.
The LNG shipping market has been tight in recent weeks due to a large number of vessels currently being used as floating storage capacity around the world.
Dozens of LNG export terminals are planned in the United States with a total capacity exceeding 300 million tonnes per year - equal to the world’s entire consumption of LNG last year.
The Marshal Vasilevskiy was moored near the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad before it was leased out and was meant to offset any potential disruption to gas pipeline flows via Belarus to the area, which is sandwiched between Poland and Lithuania and cut off from the rest of Russia.
Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin and Natalia Chumakova in Moscow and Ekaterina Kravtsova in London; Editing by Andrew Osborn and Elaine Hardcastle