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U.S. may get first LNG import from Russia despite sanctions

Reuters - A vessel that may be carrying liquefied natural gas from Russia's new Yamal LNG export terminal could be heading to the United States despite sanctions against the company that operates the Russian facility, according to a report by S&P Global Platts and Thomson Reuters shipping data.

The tanker Chris. De Margerie picked up a cargo from Novatek PAO's Yamal facility, Russia's second LNG export terminal, on Dec. 9 and dropped it off at National Grid Plc's Isle of Grain LNG facility near London on Dec. 28, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Since then, Engie SA's Gaselys LNG tanker picked up LNG from the UK facility on Dec. 30 and is expected to arrive in Boston on Jan. 22.

It is possible that some of the LNG on the Gaselys is from Yamal, according to a report by S&P Global Platts. Reuters has not independently verified that report, but the shipping data does show the routes the tankers are taking. The final destination could change.

Carol Churchill, a spokeswoman for Engie, which bought the cargo in the United Kingdom and loaded it onto one of its vessels, said: "This transaction is compliant with all U.S. trade laws."

"Given the exceptionally cold temperatures and resulting high gas demand in the U.S. Northeast, Engie purchased this spot cargo to supplement our other contracted supplies from Trinidad," Churchill said. Engie owns the Everett LNG import terminal near Boston.

Yamal LNG

Churchill did not answer a question about whether any of the gas came from Russia.

National Grid said customer confidentiality limited what information it could disclose.

"But I also believe we told people at the time that the gas from the Christophe de Margerie had not entered the UK grid," said Sean Kemp, said a spokesman for National Grid, directing further questions to the shippers and owners.

The U.S. Energy Department was not immediately available for comment.

If the vessel is carrying Russian LNG and ends up in the United States despite the U.S. sanctions against Novatek, it would be the first ever Russian LNG to go to the United States, according to U.S. energy data.

The U.S. imposed sanctions against Novatek in July 2014 due to Russia's role in the conflict in Ukraine, making it harder for the Russian gas producer to access western financial markets, according to S&P Global.

Novatek is Russia's largest independent gas producer.

Since Yamal entered service in December 2017, three vessels have picked up LNG cargoes: Chris. De Margerie on Dec. 9 and Jan. 8, Boris Vilkitsky on Dec. 9 and Dec. 22, and Fedor Litke on Dec. 29.

The Boris Vilkitsky dropped off its cargo from Dec. 22 at Rotterdam, according to the map. It is uncertain whether the Boris Vilkitsky actually picked up any gas on Dec. 9 since it did not go anywhere after stopping by the port.

The Fedor Litke is heading to the Montoir LNG terminal in France, according to the map.

(Reporting by Scott DiSavino; editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Lisa Shumaker)

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