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TRIBUNE - Russia failed to deliver more than a billion cubic metre of gas for EU

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Par Alison Pirie Rédigé le 23/04/2012 (dernière modification le 22/09/2013)

Once again the cold European winter ended with groundless charges from Russia against Ukraine in unauthorized withdrawal of the transit gas intended to the European consumers. It already becomes bad tradition!

Illustration proposée par l'auteur
Illustration proposée par l'auteur
podcast_russia.mp3 Podcast Russia.mp3  (324.09 Ko)

Recently at a meeting between the President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev and the Chairman of the Open Society Gazprom, Alexey Miller declared that unauthorized withdrawal of transit gas by Ukraine has caused financial and reputational damage to the Russian gas monopolist.
It seems like again the Russian party made decision to impose responsibility for the internal power problems on shoulders of Ukraine and the European consumers. Early February a number of the European countries, such as Italy, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia complained of considerable reduction of deliveries of the Russian gas (which in some days reached 30 %). Right away Russia accused Ukraine, in the name of its National JSC Naftogaz of Ukraine, of withdrawal of the gas intended to the European consumers. Traditionally, January and February are the coldest months of year in Russia, thereafter, internal consumption of gas and other power resources raises. As the Russian gas-transport system worked in an extreme mode (it is impossible to pump over through a pipe beyond its pumping capacity), Russia faced a choose: either to provide contract volumes of deliveries of fuel to Europe or to provide with heat of the Russian consumer. Everybody knows that pumping volumes of gas vary within a quarter. When weather conditions had improved and, accordingly, consumption of gas had decreased, Gazprom increased contract volume of deliveries, actually not violating contract obligations. As Acting Chairman of board of Gazprom, Andrey Kruglov, later admitted, that reduction in gaz export really took place and made, in his opinion, about 10 %. Gazprom declared the full restoration of gas deliveries to the European countries at the end of February after alleviating the problem.
Ukraine, in its turn, has rejected at once all charges from Gazprom. The Vice-President of the Board of Naftogaz of Ukraine Vadim Chuprun considers the Ukrainian partners haven’t withdrawn any cubic metre of the Russian transit gas. This was officially declared to the Russian side and proved with the corresponding documents. According to Vadim Chuprun, from February, 1 - 21, the underdelivery of natural gas to the gas transportation system of Ukraine has made 1 billion 247 million cubic metre of gas. That is right the same volume that Europe has received less. All these proofs about gas short delivery have been collected and sent to the Head of Gazprom, A. Miller.
Some experts believe that in cold winter Russian Gazprom deliberately failed to provide piping of gas to Europe to make a show of strength. Thus, the Russian gas monopolist has actually taken advantage of the successful moment to show to the European partners: "you don’t accept the high prices for the Russian gas, - will look, how you can manage without it".
It is necessary to give due, that in this difficult situation Ukraine has once again offered a helping hand both to Europe and Russia, proposing to use gas from the underground gas storehouses. The Prime minister of Ukraine Azarov has declared that Ukraine without damage to itself can facilitate Gazprom in supplying European consumers the additional volume of gas during unexpectedly tightened period of strong frosts.
And though the management of Gazprom with delay, but nevertheless recognized reduction of deliveries of gas to the European consumers, justifying it with necessity to meet its internal requirements (when in Russia presidential campaign left on a home straight), - Ukraine was guilty! Groundlessness charges indirectly are proved to be true by Gazprom’s management: the Russian side both has not formalized documentary the financial claims till now apropos ostensibly unauthorized withdrawal of transit gas and has not concretized which volume was extracted by Ukraine.
It worth to note that the gas pipeline project the South stream became one of factors, affecting desire of Russian side to portray Ukraine before EU in unprofitable light. Russia tries, while unsuccessfully, to accelerate its realization, using all means to force the European public to perceive the project lobbied by Moscow, as the decision of the problems connected with transit of energy carriers through the Ukrainian territory. Possibly, with that end the Russian side once again distributes the ungracious information about Ukraine, as unfair transit provider of Russian gas.
I should like to get to the back of Russian policy in this matter, if Russia puts its hopes on the South stream, how it is going to agree after realization of the project with Romania or Bulgaria concerning the prices for gas and transit? After all, as the chairman of committee of the State Duma of the RF on power Ivan Grachev has correctly noticed, these countries were much poorer than Ukraine, and, naturally, would desire to use the transit status.
According to expert estimations, Cost of realization of the project fluctuates from 22 to 27 billion USD. and the South stream in full scale will be realized only by 2023. The South stream is just a PR project by means of which Russia tries to convince the government of Ukraine that Ukrainian GTS will lose its strategic importance in a nearest time. The statements of Russian president D.Medvedev concerning the fact that the South stream will solve all the problems caused by gas supplies to EU, witness Russians take the wish for the reality. They do so to force Ukrainian side, following Belarus, to sell their gas transportation system (GTS), and, as consequence, to raise the status of a gas monopolist, as well as to bring down the value of Ukrainian GTS. According the experts including Russian, GTS of the Ukraine, supplying to 80 % of all volumes of the Russian gas to EU, represents the major link in a gas transit system. Moreover, it’ll remain this status in a future.
Gazprom deliberately fails to mention that throughput of the Russian pipelines in Western Siberia doesn’t allow increase in volumes supply of gas to consumers in Europe. At the same time the quantity and capacity of gas storehouses in the European part of Russian Federation are insufficient for guaranteeing of regularly supply to the EU consumer during the peak periods. This problem is solved by means of strategic facilities of Ukrainian GTS. Its structure includes unique underground storehouses of gas with a capability to store to 34 billion cubic metre of natural gas. Due to its power, it is possible to adjust volumes of supplies of gas during the peak periods of consumption. If Russia returned to practice of filling Ukrainian gas storage on the western border with reserve volume of gas, the problem of additional supplies of gas to Europe, arisen this year, could have been avoided.
The EU members and the European consumers are interested in the maximum utilization and continuous work of Ukrainian GTS. Most of experts believe, Ukraine can provide at the western border delivery of 200 million cubic metre of gas, using its gas storage, every day. After reconstruction its capacities should growth to 400 million cubic metre of gas. It could resolve completely a problem of reliability and stability of supplies of energy carriers to EU even in inclement winter. In addition, no one of the projects of roundabout pipelines cannot provide uniform supplies of necessary volumes of gas with a glance of seasonal variation of temperature modes. So, only Ukrainian route is equipped with the necessary volume of gas storage.
It should be noted a growing displeasure of some of the European countries by Russian policy as to the gas pricing. Poland, for instance, in the end of February, instead of patiently waiting discounts for Russian gas, applied to the Stockholm Arbitration Court, filing a case against the JSC Gazprom and the JSC Gazprom-export. A subject of dispute was the formula of calculation of the price for gas, since Russia unmotivatively has overpriced gas rates. In that complicated situation Poland got out of trouble because of strong support of the European community. According to the Deputy Head of Polish national company PGNiG, Radoslav Dudzinsky, Poland is intended to reduce as much as possible to the contract volume an import of the Russian gas (by 650 million cubic metre, that is equal to 15 %), having replaced these volumes by the natural gas from Germany and Czech Republic. Thus, this year the situation of 2010 when the price of the Russian gas for Poland made 336 dollars per one thousand cubic metre, as compared with Germany - 286 USD, has repeated. At that time Poland bought the Russian gas from Germany. Such examples display of ability of EU-members to conduct a constructive dialogue, finding comprehensible decisions in complicated situation. At the same time, the persevering attempt of the Russian monopolist to flex its muscle, having conducted pricing policy, leads to a boomerang effect, compelling the EU countries to retrieve alternative sources and develop new projects to diversify gas supplies.
Nowadays Ukraine provides continuous gas transit, adhering contract volume of the Russian gas to the EU. Moreover, Ukraine declared its intentions to go on with realizing this in a future. At the same time, to raise reliability of supplies, it is essential to consolidate efforts from the gas supplier’s side (Russian Federation), as well as from transit provider’s side (Ukraine) and the consumer (EU-members). This problem shall be resolved by all participants in a civilized way to eliminate similar situations. So, then such problems will not appear and the charges will not sound in the address of each other.

By Aleksandar Kovacevic, the member of Advisory Board to the Russian Power Conference

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