Much of Russia’s existing gas export infrastructure points West. Unfortunately for Moscow, most of its gas customers are now to its East and a lot of the infrastructure it needs to supply them is yet to be built. This mismatch of pipelines and customers — which is likely to take years to resolve — forms part of a bigger question triggered by Moscow’s assault on Ukraine. The war has cut Russia adrift from Europe, its biggest gas export market. So what has Russia — which has the largest reserves in the world — done with all that spare gas?

In 2021, Russia pumped about 150 billion cubic meters of pipeline gas to Europe — more than enough to satisfy the combined annual consumption of Germany, France and Austria. Europe represented two-thirds of the country’s gas exports including flows of liquified natural gas. Since the Ukraine invasion severely dented that trade Moscow has sought new markets, expanded others and committed to provide gas to parts of Russia not yet on the domestic network.

Even with these efforts, Russia has no customers for about 90 billion cubic meters of pipeline gas, the estimated drop in flows to Europe last year, adding to the pressure on its heavily sanctioned economy. A more than 50% fall in gas prices this year has further squeezed earnings. Oil and gas together contributed more than a third of Russia’s pre-war budget revenues. And while oil has kept flowing, the Russian gas industry has been at the center of a whirlwind that has slashed gas revenues for the state and the country’s biggest producer Gazprom PJSC.