Gas companies prepare for winter season

No impacts of halted gas deliveries from Russia to Ukraine on Slovakia, for now.

Illustrative stock photoIllustrative stock photo (Source: Sme)

“If no special circumstances appear with regard to natural gas supplies, the EU should get through the upcoming winter without significant problems,” said European Commissioner for Energy Union Maroš Šefčovič at the ninth annual Central European Energy Conference 2015 (CEEC) on November 23.

Slovak gas utility companies report preparedness for the winter season.

The state gas utility SPP guarantees gas supplies to all its 1.3 million customers while it is prepared to supply gas for 115 days even if supplies are cut off. In Slovakia energy companies are obliged to have supplies for 30 days.

In case of a gas crisis, SPP will rely on its gas reserves in underground storage facilities of the Nafta company and gas supplies from the west via reverse flow from the Czech Republic and Austria.

“SPP can secure more than 30 percent of a standard total daily gas consumption from a non-Russian source,” said SPP head Štefan Šabík as cited by the SITA newswire.  

After the gas crisis in January 2009 when Russia completely stopped the natural gas flow via Ukraine halting all Slovak industry, Slovakia has implemented several measures to diversify gas including technically enabling reverse gas flow.

Nafta operating underground storage facilities with the capacity of about 2.4 billion cubic metres of gas reports that they are filled to 80 percent capacity.

“This is a level of fullness that is common for this period of the year because clients responsible for usage of their capacity [of the storage facilities] have already started to extract their gas,” NAFTA spokeswoman Monika Feráková told TASR.

In the meantime suspended gas supplies from Russia to Ukraine has not have any impact on gas transit from Ukraine to Slovakia and further west. Gazprom halted gas supplies to Ukraine on November 25 until it receives a new prepayment for deliveries while Kiev said that could find a cheaper supply from Europe, Reuters reported.

Immediately after the halt in deliveries the Slovak Economy Ministry said it had not registered any cuts in supplies of Russian gas to Slovakia. Spokeswoman Miriam Žiaková remarked that in terms of halted deliveries it is necessary to distinguish between deliveries for needs of Ukraine that were halted and gas supplies for gas transit to Europe.

“In terms of transit via the Ukrainian territory, that one for Slovakia as well as the whole Europe is fluently continuing in line with contracts,” Žiaková told TASR.   

Eustream, the partially state-owned Slovak company that transits Russian natural gas across Slovakia from the Ukrainian border westwards, reported that the halt of deliveries has not have any impact on Slovakia yet and that it is closely monitoring the development of the situation on gas markets.

“If Eustream’s central control room records a dramatic decrease in pressure or in the volume of gas in the network or a complete shut down of gas from the east, it will immediately facilitate the flow of gas supplies from the west,” said Eustream spokesman Vahram Chuguryan as cited by TASR. “We are ready to supply all of Slovakia without restrictions.”

But Eustream perceives the situation around the halted gas deliveries from Russia to Ukraine as needlessly dramatised.

“It is a common commercial decision of the Ukrainian side which currently does not need to buy gas from Gazprom,” said Chuguryan, adding that Ukraine has more gas in its reservoirs, consumption is falling, and its own production of gas increases. “Moreover, Ukraine can buy gas cheaper from the West.”

Eustream believes that the aim of spreading of nervousness and pointing to unreliableness of the Ukrainian route is to push through extension of the Nord Stream pipeline bypassing Ukraine and Slovakia.

In the meantime 10 European governments said in a letter to the European Commission that Russia’s plans to extend its gas link to Germany run counter to EU interests and risk further destabilising Ukraine. The letter, dated November 26 and signed by Bulgaria, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia, says the project should come under the closest regulatory scrutiny and called for “an inclusive debate” at the December EU summit.

Market watchers said that Ukraine had been filling its gas reservoirs more slowly than last year.

“By the end of October 2015 it was expected that there would be about 17 billion cubic metres of gas, but I have to examine the current exact numbers,” said Šefčovič. “The reserves of gas in Ukrainian reservoirs are currently a bit smaller than in the past.”

Boris Tomčiak, analyst of Czech company Colosseum warned that Ukraine has currently extremely low gas reserves while they are by about one third lower than ideal.

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