European Union and fossil gas

From Global Energy Monitor
This article is part of the Global Energy Monitor coverage of fossil gas

According to Climate Action Tracker (CAT), the use of fossil gas in the European Union (EU) is intensively debated "as most EU member states phase out coal, some of them are increasing their dependency on natural gas and lobby for the utilisation of public money to develop natural gas infrastructure."[1]

As of 2021, 48,555 million euros of fossil gas transport infrastructure were under construction in the EU.[2] Gas infrastructure would allow for increased consumption of fossil gas beyond even 2050, when the EU is meant to have achieved net-zero emissions. Such is "at odds with this net-zero goal, as well as with medium-term goals in the EU for cutting emissions sharply by 2030" according to a Global Energy Monitor analysis.[3]

Since 2015, as of 2019, the EU has increased the share fossil gas plays in its total energy supply by three percent.[4]

Fuel mix (fossil fuels vs renewables)

In 2020, the European Union derived about 67% of its total energy supply (TES) from fossil fuels, and 22% from renewable energy sources (RES).[5] The breakdown can be seen in the table below:[4]

Total Energy Supply of the European Union by source, adapted from the EU Commission[6]
2020 (%)
Solid fossil fuels 10.61%
Manufactured gases 0.00%
Peat and peat products 0.13%
Oil shale and oil sands 0.19%
Oil and petroleum products 31.70%
Natural gas 24.73%
Nuclear 13.25%
Hydro 2.25%
Wind 2.58%
Solar photovoltaic 0.91%
Solar thermal 0.34%
Tide, Wave and Ocean 0.00%
Geothermal 0.34%
Other 12.97%
Historical trends (2005-2020) and targets for RES in GFEC (32-45% by 2030) and a range for 2050 based on emissions reductions targets.[5]

By 2035, according to the United States Congressional Research Service, "some analysts estimate that natural gas may make up almost 30% of the EU’s primary energy mix."[7]

The European Union's “Fit for 55” package, released in 2021, increase the bloc's renewable energy target for 2030 from 32% to 40%.[1] The REPowerEU plan includes a proposal to increase that further from 40% to 45%.[8] According to CAT, In 2020, "the share of renewables in the EU27 power sector increased to 39%, almost 4 percentage points above 2019 levels, and exceeding the share of electricity from fossil fuels." However, this was partially due to the economics, not increased installed capacity. In 2021 the renewables share was lower than it was in 2020.[1]

Greenhouse gas emissions targets

Historical trends and future projections for greenhouse gas emissions of the EU, via the European Environment Agency[5]

As of 2020, the European Union was the fourth largest emitter of total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and sixth per capita.[9]

In 2020, the European Union produced 3.4 gigatons of GHG emissions -- 2.4 Gt (about 74%) of which came from the energy sector.[10][6][11]

Compared to 1990 levels, GHG emissions in the European Union are down 32% as of 2020, hitting its 2020 climate and energy target.[5] Total CO2 emissions were down 31% over the same time period.[6]

The December 2020 updated version of the EU's Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) provides a strengthened 2030 emissions reduction target of “at least 55%” compared to the previous NDC’s target of “at least 40%” compared to 1990 levels. However, as CAT points out, "the new target includes emissions from the LULUCF sector, which was not the case for the previous NDC, making it more difficult to directly compare them." Overall, CAT rated the EU’s NDC target as “Almost sufficient” compared to other countries modelled domestic pathways but “Insufficient” in its "fair share emissions allocation."[12]

Between 2019 and 2021, GHG emissions for the EU27 were down by 4 percent.[9] Ember analyzed EU-27 emissions reductions compared to the International Energy Agency target of advanced economies reaching net zero by 2035 and found "EU power sector emissions fell at less than half the rate needed to stay on track for 1.5C."[13]

Government energy agencies & other key players

National energy agencies

European Energy Network is a voluntary network of 25 (as of 2022) European energy agencies "with responsibility for the planning, management or review of national research, development, demonstration or dissemination programmes in the fields of energy efficiency and renewable energy and climate change abatement."[14]

European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency (CINEA) is an EU executive agency that is tasked with goals surrounding "decarbonisation and sustainable growth."[15]

European Environment Agency is an EU decentralized agency that is tasked with providing "independent information to EU countries on developing, implementing and evaluating environmental policies."

Regulatory agencies

Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators (ACER) is an EU decentralized agency that manages the EU energy market.[15] When the European Regulators' Group for Electricity and Gas dissolved in 2011, ACER took over its responsibilities.[16]

Electric utilities

European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity (ENTSOE) is an association of European transmission system operators. Its goal is to "secure and coordinated operation of Europe’s electricity system". That system is the largest interconnected electrical grid in the world.[17]

Gas Utilities

European Transmission System Network Operators for Gas (ENTSOG) is tasked with facilitating and enhancing "cooperation between national gas transmission system operators (TSOs) across Europe, to ensure the development of a pan-European transmission system in line with European Union energy and climate goals."[18]

Leading energy companies


10 of the largest energy utilities in the EU. Installed capacities per Ember (2022)[19]
Company Total installed capacity (GW)
EDF 122.9
Enel 87.57
Iberdrola 55
Fortum/Uniper 50.3
RWE 40.7
Vattenfall 29.32
EPH 24.6
PGE 17.8
Naturgy 15.3


Enagás, Fluxys, GRTgaz and Snam are the Europe Union's four biggest gas transporters. Together they own more than half of the EU’s LNG terminals and over 100,000km of pipeline.[20]

Eni is the largest fossil gas producer in the EU, with 4.7 billion cubic feet per day in 2020.[21] Nederlandse Aardolie Maatschappij (NAM) operates theGroningen gas field, the largest in Europe.

Other Key Players

EIB is the EU Climate Bank. It's role is to provide "funding and expert advice for projects that address climate change, foster European integration, promote the development of the EU and support EU policies in over 160 countries."[15]

European Commission is the EU institution that "proposes laws, makes sure EU laws are properly applied, and manages EU spending programmes."[15]

European Council represents EU heads of state and government. It is responsible for the general political direction of the EU.[15]

Electricity usage

Installed capacity

As of 2021, the European Union's installed capacity was 947,338 MW, with about 396,936.3 MW (42%) coming from combustible fuels power plants.[10]

Installed generation capacities connected to the power grid, according to the IEA[22] and Ember.[23]
2010 2020 2030 (Projected - STEPS)
Generation Type Installed Capacity (GW) Share (%) Installed Capacity (GW) Share (%) Installed Capacity (GW) Share (%)
Wind 84.36 11.12 202.66 20.39 324 25.90
Gas 171.64 22.63 192.3 19.35 255 20.38
Hydro including PSH 147.48 19.45 156.82 15.78 166 13.27
Solar PV 29.98 3.95 141.15 14.20 254 20.30
Nuclear 128.43 16.93 117.13 11.79 97 7.75
Coal 110.84 14.61 94.14 9.47 59 4.72
Other renewables 29.61 3.90 50.08 5.04 64 5.12
Oil 56.06 7.39 37.86 3.81 19 1.52
Utility-scale batteries 0.00302 0.00 1.6471 0.17 13 1.04
Total 758.40 -- 993.79 -- 1251 --

Installed capacity in the European Union, 2000-2010, and projections up to 2040 in the Stated Policies Scenario, according to the IEA, are as follows:

IEA, Installed capacity in the European Union, 2000-2010, and projections up to 2040 in the Stated Policies Scenario, IEA, Paris[22] Coal is shown in light blue, gas-blue, hydro-light green, oil - green, solar-yellow, other renewables - light orange, wind- orange, nuclear- light purple, and batteries - purple.

In 2019, 42.2% of the EU's combined heat and power (CHP) generation (133.3 GW electricity, 285.4 GW heat) was fueled by fossil gas.[10]

The Montalto Di Castro power station, with 3,600 MW of capacity as of 2021, is the largest operational gas-fired power plant in the EU.[24][25]

As of December of 2021, the European Union had 44 GW of gas-fired power generation capacity in-development according to the Global Gas Plant Tracker.[24]


The EU generated 2,770.6 TWh of electricity in 2020, representing 10.3% of all electricity generated worldwide that year.[26] Almost 20% of the power produced by the EU was sourced from fossil gas. The usage of fossil gas between 2009 and 2019 has seen a growth rate of less than 0.05%. The breakdown of the European Union's electricity generation by source, according to the 2021 BP statistical review, was as shown below in 2019 and 2020:[26]

The European Union's 2019 and 2020 electricity generation by fuel, adapted from the BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2021.[26]
2019 2020
Source TWh Share (%) TWh Share (%)
Oil 49.2 1.70 42.7 1.54
Natural Gas 566.7 19.59 552.9 19.96
Coal 475.1 16.43 373.4 13.48
Nuclear 765.5 26.47 687.9 24.83
Hydro 317.1 10.96 342.0 12.34
Renewables 658.5 22.77 710.4 25.64
Other 60.3 2.08 61.2 2.21
Total 2,892.5 -- 2770.6 --

With 552.9 TWh of electricity produced from fossil gas, the European Union accounted for an 8.8% share of all electricity produced using fossil gas in 2020.

Electricity produced in the EU using fossil gas from 1985-2020
Electricity produced in the EU using fossil gas from 1985-2020. According to the BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2021[26] and European Commission[10]

In 2021, Italy generated the most energy from gas (137 TWh) of any EU-27 country, but Malta had the highest percentage share (79%).[13]

Ranking of the EU-27 in terms of electricity generated from gas in both real numbers and percentage share, by Ember.[27]


The European Union's gross domestic electricity consumption was 2,929.9 TWh in 2020, a decrease of 4.03% compared to 2015 but an increase of 18.88% compared to 1990.[4]

Fossil Gas Production, Consumption, Sources and Projects in the European Union

Domestic Production

In 2020, the European Union produced 55 bcm of gas. Under its stated policies it would produce 41 bcm in 2030 and 34 in 2050. Under its announced pledges, those figures are 32 and 4 respectively.[28]

In 2019, the European Union's 52.26 Mtoe of fossil gas represented approximately 8% of the EU's 617.52 Mtoe of energy produced.[10]

The domestic production of fossil gas in European Union between 2010 and 2020 is shown below (in bcm and bcf):

EU production of fossil gas in bcm, per the BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2022.[26][29]
2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021
Billion Cubic Meters (bcm) 117.6 125.6 117.5 113.9 113.9 99.9 84.3 82.3 76.8 68.8 61.1 47.8 44.0
Production and reserves of fossil gas in EU member states. Orange circles represent 2019 production, scaled by the amount of gas produced and the size of reserves. Brown circles proven reserves at the end of 2020. Both are shown in million tons of oil equivalent. Production data from the European Commission[10] reserves data from the BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2021.[26] and Worldometer.[30]

The European Union's 44.0 billion cubic meters of gas produced in 2021 accounted for around one percent of production worldwide production that year[29] comparable to the 2020 share.[26]

The EU had a growth rate of negative 9.3% per year between 2011 and 2021.[29] Negative 6.3% per year between 2009 and 2019.[26]

In 2019, the Netherlands produced 23.94 bcm of gas, an amount larger than that of any other member state in the Union.[10]

EU member-state fossil gas production shares (2019), adapted from the European Commission.[10]


At the end of 2020, the European Union held 15.6 trillion cubic feet (0.4 trillion cubic meters) of proven fossil gas reserves, representing a 0.2% share of worldwide reserves.[26][29]

With 0.1 bcm (4.6 bcf) of proven gas reserves at the end of 2020, the Netherlands have the largest gas reserves of any country in the EU.[26]

Groningen is the largest gas field in the European Union.[31] Its original recoverable reserves were between 2.7 and 2.8 trillion cubic meters.[32]


Historical fossil gas consumption shown with Net-Zero scenarios from the European Commission (average of three net-zero scenarios that achieve 55% reductions by 2030), IEA, and ENTSOG (Average of two low-emissions scenarios in the Ten Year Network Development Plan 2020). From Global Energy Monitor.[3]

In 2021, the European Union consumed 396.6 billion cubic meters (bcm) of fossil gas. This consumption represented a 9.8% share of global consumption.[29]

The growth rate of fossil gas consumption per year between 2009 and 2019, according to BP, was negative 1.4%. Consumption of fossil gas between 2009 and 2021 is shown below (in bcm):

EU consumption of fossil gas in billion cubic meters, per the BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2022.[26][29]
2009 2010 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2020 2021
393.3 422.8 389.0 382.2 374.5 331.4 346.7 368.2 385.2 378.1 391.8 380.3 396.6

Imports & exports

As of 2020, the EU was 83.6% dependent on imports for its fossil gas supply. A sampling of yearly EU import dependency data from the European Commission below: [11][10]

2000 2005 2010 2015 2019 2020
Gas import dependency (%) 65.7 69.0 67.8 74.5 89.7 83.6

European Union's fossil gas imports and exports from 2006-2020 are shown below (in Million Tonnes of Oil Equivalent (Mtoe)):

EU imports and exports of fossil gas in Mtoe, per the EU Commission.[10]
2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Imports 302.31 320.11 312.09 304.36 306.08 285.97 305.99 316.44 351.78 329.90 360.28 329.27
Exports 63.64 74.24 73.21 77.65 86.64 82.08 85.43 79.26 86.42 59.40 59.83 55.80
Existing and in-development capacity is shown in comparison to ENTSOG, IEA, and EU 2050 net-zero scenarios, from Global Energy Monitor.[3]

According to Global Energy Monitor in 2021, "the EU has had large overcapacity for gas imports, and projects under construction and proposed would raise the capacity further. In scenarios for net-zero emissions by 2050, fossil gas imports into the EU decrease significantly in the coming decades."[3]

Europe (EU-27) and the United Kingdom (UK) Gas Supply (2010–2020)
Europe (EU-27) and the United Kingdom (UK) Gas Supply (2010–2020), from the EIA[33]

In 2018, 86% of the EU's 280 bcm of gas imports came by pipeline, and 14% came by LNG. As of 2020, Russia accounted for 43.3% of fossil gas imports to the EU. Norway had a 20.7% share, Algeria: 8.4%, Qatar: 4.7%, United States: 4.4%, United Kingdom: 3.9%, Nigeria 3.4%, and others 4.7%.[11]

Impact of Russian Invasion of Ukraine on EU Gas Imports

EU Natural Gas Imports by source, according to IISD (adapted from McWilliams et al (2021)[34]

In 2020, Russia accounted for 41.1% of the bloc's imports.[34] In 2019, that figure was 45%[35] and in 2018 it was 46%.[7] Since 2010, the EU dependence on Russia has grown, as of 2020, and the United Kingdom leaving the EU increased the EU dependence on Russia.[35] However, following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Deliveries from Russia to the European Union fell by nearly 40% in the first‐half of 2022 and by around 80% between May 2022 and October 2022.[36] The RePowerEU plan (2022) aims to dismantle a structural dependence on energy imports from Russia[36] curbing imports of Russian gas by about 66% by 2022 and 100% by 2027.[34]

Natural gas pipeline flows from Russia to the European Union and Türkiye since January 2022. Between May and October 2022, daily pipeline flows from Russia to the European Union dropped by around 80%, according to the IEA.[36]

Europe can meet its energy needs while curbing Russian imports through acceleration of renewables deployment, energy efficiency and electrification without new gas infrastructure. Building additional supply, according to research by IISD, would lead to Europe exceeding 1.5 degree aligned consumption or to stranded assets.[34]


Map of Gas Infrastructure in Europe
Map of gas infrastructure in Europe and surrounding region, from ENTSOG/GIE.[37]

As of 2022, the EU network of natural gas pipelines spans about 79,758 km, according to data from Scigrid[38] and GEM calculations.

In June of 2021, the European Council accepted a proposal to allow for the use of "public funding for natural gas infrastructure until 2027 as long as it is also used to transport some hydrogen."

As of 2021, the European Union had 17,204 km of pipeline projects in development at a cost of 72,618 million euros.[3]

EU pipelines in-development, as of 2021 according to GFIT, can be seen on the map below:[39]

Proposed and under construction pipelines and operating, proposed and under construction LNG import terminals in European Union as of 2021, according to the Global Fossil Infrastructure Tracker. Proposed projects are shown in yellow, operating in brown and under-construction projects are shown in red. See the Global Fossil Infrastructure Tracker Interactive Map for more information.


The RePowerEU plan sets a target of "10 million tonnes of domestic renewable hydrogen production and 10 million tonnes of imports by 2030, to replace natural gas, coal and oil in hard-to-decarbonise industries and transport sectors."[40] The EU's 'Fit for 55' packaged proposes that "at least 50% of hydrogen used in the industry should be generated from renewables."[1]

The EU's hydrogen strategy calls for the "Installing at least 6 GW of renewable hydrogen electrolysers in the EU by 2024 and 40 GW of renewable hydrogen electrolysers by 2030."[41]

The 'European Hydrogen Backbone' calls for a 6,800 km hydrogen pipeline network by 2030 and 23,000 km by 2040. The network would consist of 75% converted fossil gas pipelines and 25% new constructions. It would require as total investment of total investment of €27-64 billion.[42]

According to the ENTSOG database for Hydrogen Projects, there are more than 300 hydrogen projects planned as of January 2022. An overview can be seen below and on the ENTSOG website. The project name, promoter country, timeline, status, scope & goal, and a link for more information can be found for each project on the platform.[43]

ENTSOGs "comprehensive overview" of current hydrogen projects along the whole value chain, as of November 2022. See the platform for more information.[43]

Suspensions of Oil and Gas Exploration in the European Union

Global Methane Pledge

Along with the United States, the European Union announced the Global Methane Pledge at COP26 in November 2021. Countries that signed this pledge agreed to take "voluntary actions to contribute to a collective effort to reduce global methane emissions at least 30 percent from 2020 levels by 2030" as well as commit to "moving towards using the highest tier IPCC good practice inventory methodologies, as well as working to continuously improve the accuracy, transparency, consistency, comparability, and completeness of national greenhouse gas inventory reporting under the UNFCCC and Paris Agreement, and to provide greater transparency in key sectors."[44] Following its commitment to the Methane Pledge, the EU Commission published new proposals that, if passed, would "introduce strict rules on methane emissions from oil, gas and coal within Europe, targeting an 80% reduction by 2030."[45]

Screenshot from the Fossil Fuel Policy Tracker showing Policies (Moratoria, bans, partial and limits) on fossil fuel production. Circle indicates a policy existed in in the country, but not necessarily that it is still in place. Map additionally shows 2019 Co2 emissions from gas.[46]

Moratoria, Bans and Limits

Several EU-Member states have moratoria, bans or limits on fossil gas. Germany has issued a moratorium on shale gas exploration. Italy has a temporary moratorium on offshore oil and gas exploration that was in effect from 2019 to 2021.[47] Spain approved a law in May 2021 that ended new licensing for the exploration and extraction of oil and gas in the country.[48] In 2017, France imposed changes to its mining code which call for an "end to all activities of exploration and exploitation of hydrocarbon fossil fuels on the French territory, including the exclusive economic zone and the continental plateau, by 2040." According to Climate Change Laws of the World, "the ban includes gas, oil and coal, and stipulates that no further permit will be granted by the government."[49]

Socio-Economic Impact of the Fossil Gas Industry


According to estimates cited by the European Commission, in 2020 there were 246 enterprises in the "Extraction of Crude Petroleum & Natural Gas" sector, 1,022 in "Support Activities for Petroleum & Natural Gas Extraction" and 174,296 in "Electricity, Gas, Steam & Air Conditioning Supply." 26,056 people were employed directly in petroleum and fossil gas extraction with an additional 14,778 in support activities for oil and gas extraction. 1,125,535 people were employed in the electricity, gas, steam, and air conditioning supply sector.[11]

Opposition to Fossil Infrastructure

Amis de la Terre,, Non au Gazoduc Fos Dunkerque, Alternatiba, Comitato NO TAP, Movimento No TAP, Re:Common, Groninger Bodem Beweging, Code Rood, Shell Must Fall, Climaximo. Gás é Andar para Trás, Plataforma Resposta al MidcAT, Climaccio,  Observatory on Debt in Globalisation ODG, Ecologistas en Acción, Fossilgasfällan, Contre l’exploitation du gaz de schiste en Algerie, Support Centre for Land Change (SCLC), Alianza Mexicana contra el Fracking, Sancris Limpio, Coordinadora Chorera, KruHa, CEE Bankwatch, Climate Action Network Europe, Corporate Europe Observatory, Counter Balance, E3G, Friends of the Earth Europe, Food & Water Europe, Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung Brussels, PowerShift e.V. Berlin, Urgewald, DUH, Gegen Gasbohren, Local Initiatives of Gegen Gasuhren, Gastivists Berlin, Ende Gelande, and Zelena Akcija are among the groups active in opposition to fossil gas. For links to all of these groups websites, please see the Gastivist Beyond Gas Network.


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