Russia’s gas exports to Europe rose 8.1 per cent last year to a record level of 193.9bn cubic metres (bcm), despite rising competition and concerns about the country’s dominance of supply. State-run Gazprom, the world’s largest gas producer, has a monopoly over Russia’s network of pipelines to Europe and supplies close to 40 per cent of Europe’s gas. But it has been forced to lower its prices in recent years to protect its market share in the face of moves by EU member states to buy more gas from the US, Qatar and other producers.

Poland, Lithuania and other states have built terminals to receive shipments of liquid natural gas with an eye to rising exports of the super-cooled fuel from the US and elsewhere. Some eastern EU states have also tried to block new Gazprom supply projects, such as the proposed Nord Stream 2 pipeline that would double supplies to Germany. They argue that Europe should reduce its reliance on Russian energy to weaken the Kremlin and as punishment for Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea.

But despite the challenges, Gazprom reported record exports to Europe for the second year in a row, with consumers turning to Russian gas to offset falling domestic production in the Netherlands and elsewhere. “The second consecutive year of record exports on the one hand demonstrates the rapidly growing demand for Russian gas in European countries, and on the other hand, its reliability to supply the required volumes,” said Gazprom chairman Alexei Miller.