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Puerto Rico Turns to Russian Gas Supply as Trade Expands

Naureen S. Malik, Kevin Varley and Anna Shiryaevskaya

(Bloomberg) -- Puerto Rico is turning to Siberia for natural gas to keep the lights on.

Catalunya Spirit, a liquefied natural gas tanker transiting the English Channel, is slated to dock in southern Puerto Rico on Oct. 30, according to vessel tracking data compiled by Bloomberg. The vessel is hauling gas that originated from Novatek PJSC’s Yamal LNG terminal in northern Russia via a ship transfer that took place in Belgium’s Zeebrugge terminal this past weekend, the data showed.

Puerto Rico relies on imported gas and other fuels for most of its power generation, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. That a cargo from the Arctic would make its way to the Caribbean underscores how quickly the LNG trade is expanding and the once-premium energy source is becoming more accessible to smaller buyers.

Puerto Rico lies about 1,100 miles (1,770 kilometers) from Kinder Morgan Inc.’s Elba Island LNG facility in Georgia, the nearest major U.S. terminal that’s capable of exporting the fuel, and a good deal closer than Russia. However, the Jones Act prevents Puerto Rico from importing LNG from the lower 48 U.S. states aboard a foreign vessel, and government data shows there are no such tankers with an American flag.

The shipment also comes at a time when the Trump administration is urging Europe to reduce its dependence on Russian supply.

“Our gas molecules land in over 26 countries, directly or indirectly, so I really can’t comment on this specific cargo,” Novatek Chief Financial Officer Mark Gyetvay said in an email Monday. “I will say that we look forward to delivering competitively priced LNG to all markets around the world who need natural gas, including the U.S. and the territory of PR, if gas is needed.”

EcoElectrica, which owns the LNG import terminal in the Puerto Rican city of Ponce, couldn’t be reached for comment. Massachusetts was the destination of the last two Yamal cargoes that reached U.S. territory.

(Updates with explanation of the Jones Act in third paragraph)

To contact the reporters on this story: Naureen S. Malik in New York at nmalik28@bloomberg.net;Kevin Varley in Washington at kvarley@bloomberg.net;Anna Shiryaevskaya in London at ashiryaevska@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Simon Casey at scasey4@bloomberg.net, Joe Carroll, Christine Buurma

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