Energy exports from the UK to the Netherlands rocketed by 67% in June, official figures reveal, in the latest sign of Europe’s scramble to reduce its dependence on Russian oil and gas.
British exports of fossil fuels more than doubled in value in June compared with the same period last year, the latest trading data from HMRC shows.
More than £1bn of that went to the Netherlands, home to some of the continent’s biggest gas storage facilities.
The figures come as countries across Europe rush to bank energy supplies for the winter as Russia restricts flows of gas via its Nord Stream 1 pipeline in an apparent attempt to press them to drop their support for Ukraine.
Dutch natural gas storage facilities were filled to 50% of their capacity at the end of June, about two months earlier than normal. The filling of the facilities accelerated in May when the Dutch government offered a €400m (£339bn) subsidy for gas companies to fill storage facilities during the summer season.
The Netherlands also instructed its state-owned natural gas company to fill up storage left empty by Gazprom at the giant Bergermeer facility as Europe including the UK rushes to bank supplies for winter in the absence of the Russian pipeline.
The HMRC figures [pdf] do not specify the original source of the UK’s energy exports, but show a near tripling in fossil fuel imports in the second quarter of 2022 compared with the same period in 2021 – with nearly £5bn more imported in June 2022 than the same month last year. This suggests a large proportion of the exports could include oil and liquified natural gas (LNG) brought into UK ports that was then sent on abroad.
Earlier this year the UK ambassador to the US announced work with the US to get more LNG into Europe as part of western allied nations’ coordinated response to Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
HMRC figures show in the second quarter of 2022 the UK imported more than £25bn in fossil fuels, compared with £8.9bn in the same period last year, with £1.2bn of that coming from the US in June alone.
Separate figures released on Friday from the Office for National Statistics show that overall exports to the EU of products of all types jumped by 16.3% between April and June compared with the previous three months, while those to the rest of the world rose by 8.6%.
However, two months of strong growth in total world exports in April and May was followed by an 8% decline in June, leading business representatives to raise concern about the risks ahead.
“This data shows the risks of weakening, instead of stabilising, our trade relations with the EU,” said William Bain, head of trade policy at the British Chambers of Commerce.
“There is now an urgent need for real delivery by the UK government’s export strategy to support the growth ambitions of UK exporting businesses.”
Marco Forgione, the director general of the Institute of Export and International Trade, said that “superficially the ONS figures look positive” but that its analysis showed fewer companies were exporting and fewer goods were being exported.
“Our members are telling us they have grave concerns regarding even bigger price increases later this year, both because of the energy crisis in Europe and the problems faced by our second biggest trading partner, Germany,” he said.
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