Natural gas in Europe 2010

Western Europe produces 10% of the world’s natural gas, the bulk of it from the North Sea, and consumes 18% of the global total, importing via pipeline from Russia and North Africa and as LNG from countries further afield. The energy profiles of the various European countries vary widely. The UK, Netherlands and Norway are the big three natural gas producers. Of the three, the UK is by far the largest consumer, with the Netherlands using just over half as much and Norway with very little. Germany and Italy are large importers, although relatively small producers and are the first and third largest consumers with the UK in second place, followed by the Netherlands and France in fourth and fifth place respectively. Norway and the Netherlands are by far the leading exporters.
Western and Central European countries produced 52% of the gas they needed in 2010.
Of the countries that do not produce natural gas, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Romania, Serbia and Slovakia all rely on Russia for all of their imports.
Moving to bolster its energy security however, Poland is set to become the first East European country to try to reduce its dependence on Russian natural gas imports by diversifying its sources.
Gas was first found in quantity in the Groningen area of the Netherlands in 1959. This was followed by the first British discovery of gas in the West Sole field, in the North Sea off the coast of East Anglia, by the BP jack-up drilling rig Sea Gem, late in 1965. As exploration and investment moved further north, it became clear that there was oil to be found in great quantities. However, it was not until 1975 that a small entrepreneurial American company, Hamilton Brothers working in the Argyle field, brought the first British oil ashore, to followed very soon after by BP in the massive Forties field.
By the early 1980s Britain had become a net exporter of oil, and by the mid-1990s of gas. The British industry in the Southern North Sea grew rapidly in the early years. The deepening economic crisis in the UK meant that there was enormous pressure on the industry to get gas, and later, oil flowing. Now, the UK is a net importer with an estimated five years left of natural gas supplies. A recent increase in taxation of UK’s North Sea oil and gas fields has resulted in some oil and gas operators considering closing up operations in the area and developing resources elsewhere, including the Norweigan sections of the Sea. As Statoil, the Norweigan oil and gas company has recently been awarded licences to develop sections of the field. However, natural gas resources in the Netherlands and Norway are only expected to last 16 and 22 years respectively based on 2010 rates of consumption.