KIEV, Aug. 16 - Ukraine may face an energy crisis by the end of the year because Naftogaz Ukrayiny, the national oil and gas company, has failed to accumulate sufficient reserves of natural gas, a top official said Thursday.
Viktor Baloha, President Viktor Yushchenko’s chief of staff, accused Energy and Fuel Minister Yuriy Boyko of poor management of the sector. He said Boyko will soon be summoned up to address energy sector problems at a special meeting between the president and Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych.
“It appears that our own reserves of natural gas have not been created in the country,” Baloha said in a statement. “Whatever has been stored in underground gas tanks does not belong” to Ukraine.
The development come a week after Boyko has reported that Ukraine accumulated 20 billion cubic meters of gas in its underground gas tanks as of Aug. 1 that would be enough to survive the winter and to provide steady gas shipments to Europe.
But Baloha said most of this gas, up to 16 billion cubic meters, appears to owned by either RosUkrEnergo, a controversial gas supply monopoly, or UkrGaz-Energo, a joint venture that is de-facto controlled by RosUkrEnergo.
Naftogaz Ukrayiny apparently owns 2.2 billion cubic meters of gas, while the rest is apparently owned by other Ukrainian energy companies, according to Baloha.
Thee development poses significant threat to Ukrainian national interests and may again lead to disruptions of natural gas supplies to the European Union in the case of a clash between Ukraine and Russia over natural gas prices.
The clash may be even worse than in January 2006, when Naftogaz owned up to 15 billion cubic meters of natural gas that it had used it in place of disrupted deliveries of Russian gas.
Baloha warned the situation is especially worrying as Ukraine an Russia failed to reach an agreement on prices for natural gas to be supplied in 2008.
“The government failed to establish constructive negotiations with Russia over gas prices in 2008,” Baloha said. “It’s the month of August already, but the country still doesn’t know the price of gas it will have to pay next year.”
This leaves Ukraine vulnerable to a “severe price diktat” from Gazprom, Russia’s state gas monopoly, Baloha said, warning that steep gas price hike “would be exhausting for the economy.”
Meanwhile, Naftogaz, headed by Yevhen Bakulin, an ally of Boyko, issued a statement on Thursday denying the allegations. Naftogaz said that there were a total of 26.5 billion cubic meters of gas kept in underground storage facilities as of Aug. 15, which is “a record amount since 1998,” the company said.
Naftogaz said it owns 5.5 billion cubic meters of gas, while UkrGazEnergo owns 13 billion cu m, “which means that at least 18.5 billion cubic meters of gas will be supplied to Ukrainian consumers,” Naftogaz said. (sb/ez)