U.S. looks to energy companies for contingency plans if conflict with Russia disrupts energy supplies

The U.S. government has held talks with several international energy companies on contingency plans for supplying natural gas to Europe if conflict between Russia and Ukraine disrupts Russian supplies, two U.S. officials and two industry sources told Reuters on Friday.

The European Union depends on Russia for around a third of its gas supplies, and any interruptions to those supplies would exacerbate an energy crisis caused by a shortage of the fuel. Record power prices have driven up consumer energy bills as well as business costs and sparked protests in some countries.

State Department officials approached the companies to ask where additional supplies might come from if they were needed, two industry sources familiar with the discussions told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter.

The companies told the U.S. government officials that global gas supplies are tight and that there is little gas available to substitute large volumes from Russia, the industry sources said.

The State Department's discussions with energy companies were led by senior advisor for energy security Amos Hochstein, a senior U.S. State Department official said, also speaking on condition of anonymity. The State Department did not ask the companies to increase output, the official added.

"We've discussed a range of contingencies and we've talked about all that we're doing with our nation state partners and allies," the source said.

"We've done this with the European Commission, but we've also done it with energy companies. It's accurate to say that we've spoken to them about our concerns and spoken to them about a range of contingencies, but there wasn't any sort of ask when it comes to production."

As well as asking companies what capacity they had to raise supplies, U.S. officials also asked whether companies had the capacity to increase exports and postpone field maintenance if necessary, the sources said.

It was unclear which companies U.S. officials contacted. A spokesperson for the U.S. National Security Council would not comment on U.S. discussions with energy companies, but confirmed contingency planning was underway.

"Assessing potential spillovers and exploring ways to reduce those spillovers is good governance and standard practice," the spokesperson said.

"Any details in this regard that make their way to the public only demonstrate the extensive detail and seriousness with which we are discussing and are prepared to impose significant measures with our allies and partners."

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