European gas demand set to grow by 2% in 2021, Equinor says

OSLO, March 24 (Reuters) - Europe’s demand for natural gas is expected to grow by 2% this year after contracting by around 4% in 2020, Norwegian energy major Equinor predicted in a market update on Wednesday.

The drop last year was caused by mild weather and quarantines linked to the COVID-19 pandemic, the company said.

While lockdowns have continued in the first quarter of 2021, the impact on gas demand has been smaller, according to Equinor.

“Our 2021 forecast builds on a return to average heating demand through the winter season and a gradual recovery of industrial and commercial activity,” an Equinor spokeswoman said in an email.

“We foresee a gradual rebound in gas demand for 2021, but not a return to pre-COVID levels before 2022,” she added.

Equinor is the second-largest supplier of natural gas to Europe after Russia’s Gazprom. (Reporting by Nora Buli and Nerijus Adomaitis, editing by Terje Solsvik)