KIEV, Aug. 5 – European Union countries, seeking to hedge themselves against possible natural gas supply disruptions in the event of a dispute between Ukraine and Russia in December, dramatically increased imports of gas this year.
EU’s imports from Russia via its key Ukrainian route rose 21.4% on the year to 74.4 billion cubic meters in January-July, according to UkrTransGaz, a state gas shipper.
“The transit volumes depend on consumers in Europe,” Volodymyr Saprykin, an energy sector analyst with Razumkov Center, said. “Gas prices are growing and it is [still] not clear whether there will be new gas transit wars [between Russia and Ukraine].”
“That’s why European countries try to fill their gas tanks at full capacity,” he said.
The increased gas transit underscores fears in Europe that Ukraine and Russia may again fail to solve their gas dispute before December 31, which suggests that the development may affect the European deliveries.
Russian gas supplies to the EU were disrupted for four days in 2006, between Jan. 1 and Jan. 4, after a dispute had forced Gazprom to suspend deliveries to Ukraine, at the same time affecting European deliveries.
But the bigger gas reserves in Europe de-facto also give Russian state-controlled gas company Gazprom more negotiating power when it comes to talks with Ukraine.
The revelations that more gas is moved to fill European gas reserves comes a month after Gazprom has praised Ukraine for allowing record number of gas to be moved via its pipeline.
UkrTransGaz, a subsidiary of Naftogaz Ukrayiny, said the high transit volume shows that Ukraine’s gas network is reliable.
“The record amount of gas transit once again confirmed that UkrTransGaz maintains Ukrainian gas transportation route in good condition and is reliable partner of Gazprom in gas transportation to Europe,” the company said in a statement.
Ukraine transported 9.1 billion cu m of natural gas to Europe in July, down from 9.6 billion cu m moved in June, but up from 8.3 billion cu m shipped in July 2007, UkrTransGaz reported.
UkrTransGaz said natural gas shipments via its major Slovakian route increased by 27% year-on-year to 48.6 billion cu m in January-July, compared with 38.4 billion cu m shipped one year ago.
At the same time, natural gas deliveries to Hungary increased to 7.4 billion cu m in January-July, up from 5.7 billion cu m, while gas shipments to Poland rose to 2.9 billion cu m from 2.4 billion cu m one year ago.
In January-July Ukraine also moved 15.5 billion cu m of natural gas via the Russia-Ukraine-Balkans route, including Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey, up from 14.8 billion cu m shipped one year ago, the company said.
Ukraine, which owns major gas transportation network, moves more than 110 billion cu m/year of gas, or 80% of all Russian Europe-bound gas. Russia supplies a quarter of Europe’s gas needs.
Ukraine shipped a total of 112.1 billion cu m of natural gas to Europe in 2007, down from 113.8 billion cu m shipped in 2006 and down from 121.5 billion cu m shipped in 2005. (tl/ez)