Jan. 11 (UPI) -- Norway is playing a clear leadership role in securing the energy supply in the European market, its main natural gas deliverer said Thursday.
State-owned natural gas shipper Gassco said last year set a record for deliveries to European and British buyers of Norwegian natural gas. The annual shipment of natural gas through the Norwegian pipeline system to continental Europe was 8 percent higher last year than in 2016, setting a record for its 40 year history.
"This performance demonstrates the key role played in European energy supply by Norway's gas exports," Gassco CEO Frode Leversund said in a statement.
The 4.1 trillion cubic feet of gas delivered represented about 25 percent of total European natural gas consumption.
The International Energy Agency in a world outlook published in November said the European market is leaning more on imports as its own production slips. Consumption in the power sector, meanwhile, is on pace to increase by around 7 percent.
As European economies green up, the retirement of aging coal-fired power plants adds additional demand strains as new gas-fired plants come online as replacements.
Though Gassco's volumes are up, Russia is the largest natural gas supplier to the European market with a market share of around 40 percent.
Russian natural gas company Gazprom plans to double the capacity for the Nord Stream pipeline system, which runs through the Baltic Sea, and crosses into European territory before it makes landfall in Germany.
In late 2017, the European Commission amended a gas directive to ensure all pipelines entering into European territory are operating transparently and efficiently. The measure was aimed at increasing competition between natural gas suppliers and boosting energy security in the European Union, and could complicate Gazprom's plans for Nord Stream.
"We're proud of running this system with the highest possible regularity, and thereby ensuring secure and reliable deliveries to Europe," Gassco's CEO added.
Liquefied natural gas, some of which comes from the United States, has also been seen as a way to diversify the European market.