Russia's Gazprom -- which until recently dominated the European gas market -- reduced supplies to a minimum through 2022, losing most of its market share in the process and triggering a huge gas production decline.
Gazprom has limited options for diverting gas that used to be piped to Europe to other markets, but that is not to say that it won't try.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is keen on helping develop a gas hub in Turkey from where more Russian gas could find new homes in southeastern Europe, though most buyers would be unlikely to commit to new Russian volumes.
In the meantime, Gazprom could be looking to its immediate neighbors in Central Asia to offload surplus gas -- and potentially even a new route to the Chinese market.
Gazprom's gas production in 2022 totaled just 413 Bcm, more than 100 Bcm less than the 515 Bcm produced in 2021.
Its monopoly pipeline exports to non-CIS countries amounted to 100.9 Bcm, which included 15.4 Bcm of pipeline supplies to China via the Power of Siberia link.
That points to exports to Europe and Turkey of around 85 Bcm last year, which included half a year of full Nord Stream deliveries to Europe and the potential for up to 32 Bcm of supplies to Turkey via TurkStream and Blue Stream.
Gazprom's supply of Russian gas to Europe continues via Ukraine and the second string of TurkStream, but if recent average flow rates are sustained, exports would total only 26 Bcm in 2023.
Related content: Europe adapts, not without difficulty, to life without Russian gas
Jack Sharples, analyst at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, said it was likely that the majority of the Russian gas that was historically sent to Europe by Gazprom by pipeline has now been shut in.
"The hit has been taken through a massive decline in gas production rather than re-directing," Sharples told S&P Global Commodity Insights.
"The only destination for re-directed flows is to their near-neighbors," he said. "But we're talking very limited volumes compared with what they were exporting to Europe."
Azerbaijan has already looked to Russian gas to help meet domestic demand this winter. In November, Gazprom began the supply of up to 1 Bcm of gas to Azerbaijan's Socar in a deal set to run until March this year.
And Uzbekistan is reportedly looking to import Russian gas via Kazakhstan as its own production declines.
"Geopolitically, the Russian government and Gazprom are probably quite keen to stress that they have friends outside of Europe," Sharples said.
In terms of the European market, however, Gazprom has gone from the pinnacle of relevance in the recent past to appearing to be increasingly irrelevant.
For much of 2022, news releases from Gazprom and its export arm Gazprom Export regularly moved the market, particularly statements on Nord Stream maintenance.
Its new focus on the former Soviet states in Central Asia is noticeable from the six releases posted to Gazprom Export's website so far in 2023.
On Feb. 9, Gazprom said it had held talks with the energy ministers of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan on the possibilities of "trilateral cooperation" which followed gas cooperation roadmaps signed with Kazakhstan on Jan. 18 and Uzbekistan on Jan. 24.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak in November last year said Russia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan had also begun talks over a "gas union" that would coordinate gas transport, export and processing.
It remains unclear what the status of that proposed union is.
On Feb. 15, Gazprom also held talks with Turkmenistan on "the course and prospects of cooperation in the gas sector".
And on Feb. 7 it held talks with Socar on the "course of interaction between the companies as well as possible directions for the development of cooperation."
Gazprom Export press releases in 2023
|Jan. 11||Gazprom and CNPC discuss plans for key areas of cooperation for 2023|
|Jan. 18||Roadmap for cooperation in the gas industry signed with the government of Kazakhstan|
|Jan. 24||Roadmap for cooperation in the gas industry signed with the ministry of energy of Uzbekistan|
|Feb. 7||Gazprom and Socar consider possible areas for developing cooperation|
|Feb. 9||Gazprom, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan discuss the possibilities of trilateral cooperation|
|Feb. 15||Working visit of Gazprom delegation to Turkmenistan|
Source: Gazprom Export
The only other release on Gazprom Export's website for 2023 was from Jan. 11 and concerned cooperation with China's CNPC, which already takes gas from Russia via the Power of Siberia pipeline.
"Gazprom and CNPC discussed plans for key areas of cooperation for 2023," Gazprom said, adding that "special attention" was paid to future gas supplies via the Far Eastern route.
Russia has plans to build new pipelines to supply China with gas -- the 50 Bcm/year Power of Siberia 2 link via Mongolia and the 10 Bcm/year Far Eastern route.
In the meantime, however, there is always the possibility that Gazprom could be looking to strike a deal with states in Central Asia on transiting Russian gas to China.
"Can they export more to China via the back door? If that were to become a viable option, we would probably see it trailed heavily in advance through meetings between Russia and China," Sharples said.
Delivering Russian gas to China via Central Asia could also complicate talks over prices for Power of Siberia 2.
"Would an offer to send more gas via the back door through Central Asia in any way undermine the negotiations currently going on over Power of Siberia 2?" Sharples said.
Of course, Gazprom is still supplying some gas to Europe despite fears that gas transit via Ukraine would end following the Russian invasion in February 2022.
According to a recent S&P Global Commodity Insights report, one reason could be the fact that the route via Ukraine is the only way to supply gas to the breakaway Trans-Dniester region in Moldova.
In addition, Gazprom Export may want to continue flows given the enduring commercial gas business it has in a number of European countries through its Centrex trading subsidiary.
Centrex -- 100% owned by Gazprom Export since June 2021 -- has stakes in a number of European gas companies, including a 10% stake in Hungarian gas importer PanRusGaz and a 25% stake in Serbian gas importer Yugorosgaz.
Centrex is also involved in bringing gas into Austria -- under a long-term supply deal to 2028 -- and in Italy.
Hungary and Serbia are among very few countries in Europe still seen as having relatively close ties to the Kremlin.
"Other than the commercial benefits and revenues, retaining these sales is an important part of the Kremlin's promise to supply 'cheap' gas to European countries that may soften their stance on sanctions and end their support for the Ukrainian war effort," S&P Global said.
Spot European gas prices remain relatively expensive despite having fallen from their August highs.
Platts, part of S&P Global Commodity Insights, assessed the benchmark Dutch TTF month-ahead price at a record Eur319.98/MWh on Aug. 26.
Prices have weakened since on the back of healthy storage and demand curtailments, with Platts assessing the TTF month-ahead price on Feb. 21 at Eur48.73/MWh.