KIEV, March 5 â€“ Russia was forced to reduce shipments of natural gas to Europe via Ukraine by 10% on the year in January through February as demand had dropped due to an unusually warm weather.
Ukraineâ€™s own imports of natural gas fell by almost 16.1% on the year in the same period, helping to reduce the countryâ€™s energy import bill and easing pressure on the hryvnia.
The development also alleviates pressure on Russia, which has been facing natural gas shortages this year for the first time ever, according to Russian officials.
The weaker demand for gas in Europe leaves more gas for Russian consumers, mostly power generating companies, easing concerns that Russia would be forced to cut gas supplies to some of its neighbors, such as Ukraine.
Ukraine is the main shipper of Russian gas to Europe as it moves up to 80% of such exports via its gas pipelines, while the rest is channeled mostly through Belarus. Russia supplies a quarter of Europeâ€™s gas needs.
Ukraine moved 19 billion cubic meters of Russian gas for exports to Europe in January through February, down from 21.1 billion cu m in the same period of 2006, according to UkrTransgaz, the gas shipper.
Ukraineâ€™s own imports of gas dropped to 14.6 billion cubic meters in January-February, down from 17.4 billion imported in the same period a year ago, UkrTransGaz said.
â€śThe reason for reducing transit of gas via Ukraine was weaker demand from European consumers due to unusually warm weather,â€ť UkrTransGaz reported.
Most of European countries reported extremely warm weather during the winter, in some regions the average temperature had been apparently the warmest for the past four hundred years.
Meanwhile, as most of European countries reduced imports of Russian natural gas, Turkey was the only country that had actually boosted imports of gas this year.
Turkey imported 4.3 billion cubic meters of gas in January-February, up 7.5% on the year from 4 billion cu m imported in the same period of 2006, UkrTransGaz said.
Anatoliy Chubais, the chairman of RAO UES, Russiaâ€™s state-controlled power grid, said last month that Russia would probably have gas shortages of at least 4 billion cubic meters in 2007.
He said the shortages will probably increase to 8 billion cu m in 2008 and to 40 billion in 2010 with no clear plan within the Russian government how to tackle the problem. (sb/ez)