The FSRU Independence, Lithuania’s floating storage and regasification unit, has been helping the country diversify its energy supply since 2014. It singlehandedly broke Russian energy company Gazprom’s monopoly on gas deliveries to the country. As the currently-leased ship is set to continue its work through 2044, Vilnius has ultimately decided to purchase it. This will leave Lithuania free to pursue political goals it deems fit without pressure from foreign actors rich in energy resources.
An FSRU is a vessel that receives Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) from an LNG tanker vessel and transforms it from a liquid state back into gas before pumping it into the country’s national gas transmission system. Klaipėdos Nafta (KN), the operator of Lithuania’s only LNG import facility, signed a 10-year lease from Höegh LNG after its arrival to the Port of Klaipėda. KN decided to purchase the vessel in a process that will allow them to take ownership of the FSRU as soon as the lease expires in 2024.
Lithuanian LNG and independence
Like its two Baltic neighbors, Latvia and Estonia, Lithuania was part of the Soviet Union for more than five decades after having been annexed in 1940. It was, therefore, an integral part of the Soviet gas transmission system. Though the country regained independence in 1991, reorienting the country’s critical infrastructure toward the West only really began to accelerate after it joined the EU in 2004.
This year, the Polish-Lithuanian gas pipeline GIPL will, for the first time, connect the country directly to another non-Baltic EU member state. The new connection is a welcome development, though Lithuania has been able to purchase non-Russian foreign gas through the FSRU Independence since 2014. This model will be continued after 2024, as the decision to buy the vessel was regarded as the most economically advantageous option at a shareholder meeting in February 2022. The news means that KN will own and operate the FSRU Independence until 2044.
The USD 153 million purchase will transfer full ownership of the 170,000 m3 LNG-capacity vessel to KN. Acquisition of the FSRU Independence will bring Lithuania what President Grybauskaite claimed during the ceremony celebrating the ship’s arrival in 2014: not just energy independence, “but also political freedom. From now on, nobody will dictate to us the price for gas or buy our political will.”