(Bloomberg) -- Spain, the biggest European buyer of liquefied natural gas from Russia, is urging importers not to sign new contracts with Moscow as it seeks to crimp revenues for the Kremlin’s war machine.
LNG importers in Spain received a letter from the government asking companies not to sign up to new purchases from Russia, according to people with knowledge of the matter. The Spanish government’s request isn’t binding as there are no sanctions in place, and only refers to new contracts, according to the people, who declined to be named.
Europe’s pipeline gas flows from Russia have fallen to historic lows since the invasion of Ukraine last year. But to make up for the shortfall, LNG shipments from all over the world have surged — including from Russia.
Spain has almost doubled imports of Russian LNG since the outbreak of the war, highlighting how dependent Europe still is on Moscow.
Read more: EU Is Hooked on Russia LNG and Paying Billions to Keep It Coming
Naturgy Energy Group SA, Repsol SA, TotalEnergies SE, Axpo Holding AG, Pavilion Energy, Enagás SA, Met Energy, Enet Energy, Energias de Portugal SA, Compañía Española de Petroleos SA and BP Gas & Power Iberia were sent a letter on March 14 by Deputy Prime Minister Teresa Ribera, who’s in charge of Spain’s energy policy.
The letter, seen by Bloomberg News, doesn’t explicitly mention spot contracts but makes a general plea to “intensify the diversification of supply of liquefied natural gas and do without those from Russia.” Ribera confirmed in an emailed response to questions that she sent the letter 10 days ago and several companies replied.
Axpo, Repsol and Enagás responded to the notification saying they’re not purchasing LNG from Russia, according to a spokesperson of the ministry.
“We can confirm that Axpo has not brought any Russian LNG cargoes into Spain since the start of the war in Ukraine,” a company spokesperson said.
The European Union’s energy chief Kadri Simson earlier this month called for shipments to be stopped, saying companies should not renew long-term contracts once current ones end. She didn’t announce any specific measures.
Spain is the EU’s top buyer of Russian LNG so far this year, ship-tracking data on Bloomberg show. The country was forced to seek additional purchases last year after shipments from longstanding gas supplier Algeria declined following a diplomatic feud between the two nations.
Spain only receives Russian gas as LNG, as its utility Naturgy Energy Group SA holds a 20-year contract to purchase the fuel from Yamal LNG in the Arctic until 2038. The company declined to comment.
In January the German government said it wanted to curb imports of Russian liquefied natural gas, without being specific how it would do this. So far, the EU has stopped short of discussing any ban at a regional level.
--With assistance from Alonso Soto.
(Updates with comments on several buyers including Axpo not purchasing Russian LNG.)
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