The price of European hubs

The price of European hubs

By D. Rozanov

The European Union's strategy for diversifying Europe's gas supply is being implemented around such priorities as the development of the Southern Gas Corridor, the creation of a liquefied gas hub in the Mediterranean, and also by expanding access to liquefied natural gas and gas storage facilities. To achieve this, the European Commission approved the strategy in February 2016.

While Moscow in principle expressed its willingness to negotiate with the EU Commission, although it is noted that the "Nord Stream-2" is purely a commercial project. The fact is that the Russian side has not yet received from Brussels any official documents on that account. That is, negotiations should have been conducted with Gazprom, which is implementing this project with the financial support of a number of Western companies.

The opposition to the project by the EU Commission is quite obvious. It is connected with the attempts of Gazprom to strengthen its positions in the European market and the threat (after the second line of the gas pipeline) of the existing transport route, in particular, through Ukraine. And this means that the EU will have to find the amount that Kiev is still receiving from Gazprom for the transit of its gas to Europe.

What is the North Stream 2 project waiting for? According to experts, the actions of the European Commission will lead to a protracted implementation of the project. Perhaps this is precisely the real goal of Brussels. After all, in 2019, the agreement on the transit of Russian gas through the territory of Ukraine expires. It is to this date that the launch of Nord Stream-2 is timed. The implementation of this project would significantly limit the volume of Russian gas pumped through the Ukrainian gas transmission system, and the launch of the Turkish Stream in general may call into question the existence of the Ukrainian transport corridor. Apparently, the European Commission intends to keep Ukraine as a transit country for gas supplies to Europe by any means. The principles of the implementation of the pipeline approved by the European Commission - transparency in the functioning of the gas pipeline, non-discriminatory tariffing, the appropriate level of non-discriminatory access for a third party and the degree of separation between supply and transmission activities - may in general call into question the further construction of the gas pipeline. Moreover, the European Commission can try in the event of failure of negotiations with Russia on this issue to prohibit the laying of the land part of the "Nord Stream-2". In any case, the Russian side will have to prepare for difficult negotiations with Kiev on the use of the Ukrainian gas transmission system for the transfer of gas to Europe.

Similar problems, incidentally, exist in the "Nord Stream-1", which the European administration allows to use additional capacities of the OPAL gas pipeline (the land continuation of the first "Nord Stream"), then again prohibits.

In 2012, the European Commission began an antitrust investigation against Gazprom, although the investigative actions began in the previous year. Gazprom was accused of dividing markets by hampering free gas supplies to EU countries, jeopardizing diversification of supplies and imposing unfair prices by linking gas prices to oil quotes.

The European Commission threatened Gazprom with fines of 10-30% of turnover in those markets where violations were found.

In 2013, Brussels said that the amount of fines could be $ 15 billion.
But in mid-March 2017, the European Commission said that Gazprom expressed its readiness to compromise with its counterparties and provided its proposals on this matter.

First, the Russian company promised not to hinder re-export of its gas from European customers any more. Secondly, the holding refused claims to Bulgaria for the failure of the South Stream gas pipeline project.

But the main thing is that Gazprom has already expressed its readiness to revise pricing for Poland, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, tying it to prices of Western European gas hubs.

The price of European hubs is in fact the price of spot, that is, one-time, short-term contracts. The question is what level of spot binding Gazprom is willing to give. In recent years, the company not only introduced a spot component to its price formula (previously it was not considered for long-term contracts), but it also changed it for individual partners.

According to experts, now the share of the spot in the formula of Gazprom on average is 15-20%. Up to what level the company is ready to raise it, is not disclosed, but experts believe that the peg to the spot may exceed 50%.

In the meantime, there is a tendency to try to cut off Europe from Russian energy resources. According to experts, the US is guided by political motives and pursues the goal of weakening the energy ties between the Russian Federation and the EU, and at the same time supporting Ukraine.


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