This ship helps Lithuania get cheaper gas

Lithuania will receive a shipment of liquefied natural gas from a U.S. company on August 21, further evidence of that Baltic country’s ongoing efforts to diversify its gas suppliers.

Lithuania took a step toward energy security in 2014 with the Independence, a specialized ship that allows the country to import liquefied natural gas (LNG) from anywhere in the world.

Before 2014, the country relied on pipelines to deliver natural gas. Why change? A single source controlled Lithuania’s access to this critical fuel source: Russia’s government-owned oil and gas giant, Gazprom. With the market all to itself, Gazprom charged high prices.

Technology helped Lithuania go beyond pipelines, because today natural gas can be compressed into liquid form and safely transported via specialized tanker ships. Ships like the Independence then convert the liquefied natural gas into a form that can be be used for electricity and heating. Re-gasification terminals can be located on land or on floating terminals, like the Independence.

“A few years ago, we paid the highest price in Europe for natural gas,” said former Lithuanian energy minister Rokas Masiulis, who is now minister of transport and communications.

With competition from other sources — Lithuania has imported liquefied natural gas from Norway and other countries — Lithuania negotiated lower prices.

From 2014 to 2015, the country’s energy prices dropped 20 percent. “One of the reasons for that is the LNG terminal,” Masiulis said. Lithuania continues to import natural gas from Russia at much more competitive prices, as well as liquefied natural gas from the international marketplace.

The August 21 LNG shipment comes from Cheniere Energy Inc. It’s the first shipment from an American energy company to the Baltic countries.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence hailed Lithuania’s deal with Cheniere as one that will increase national security not just for Lithuania, but for the other Baltics as well.

“The Baltic states are leading by example but are also contributing mightily to international security,” Pence said in Estonia on July 31.

“Ours is a shared future of security and prosperity, ours is a shared future of freedom, and we will go forth to meet that future — together, as allies and friends always.”