Ukraine has started the heating season with minimal gas reserves

KYIV, 18 Jul – RIA Novosti. Ukraine this weekend finished pumping gas into its underground gas storage facilities and the beginning of the selection in connection with the beginning of the heating season. Only in the vaults of the state company “Ukrtransgaz”, responsible for the transportation and storage of gas in Ukraine has accumulated to 14.7 billion cubic meters of gas, which is a record low figure for the country in recent years.

The Ukrainian authorities assure that the situation is under control, according to the Prime Minister Vladimir Groysman, the available energy reserves sufficient to survive the winter.

At the same time, experts believe that in the case of cold weather, the gas may not be enough that will cause problems with heating of the Ukrainians and would threaten Russian gas transit to Europe.

With hope for warmth

On Sunday, the press Secretary of “Ukrtransgaz” Maxim Bilyavskiy reported stop the injection of gas into underground storage facilities and the beginning of his selection. According to him, the year was pumped at 6.3 billion cubic meters of gas, currently in storage, which is 48% filled, is 14.7 billion cubic meters.

Ukraine was part of the last two heating season with gas reserves that exceed amounts accumulated in the UGS to the current heating season. In the 2015-2016 season entered the country with a volume of 17.1 billion cubic meters of gas and finished it with a margin of 8.4 billion cubic meters, and the 2014-2015 season, beginning with a margin of 16.7 billion cubic meters of gas and finished with a margin of 7.6 billion cubic meters. While the last two winters in Ukraine were relatively warm.

This year Kyiv in preparation for winter first did not use Russian gas, purchasing just the reverse gas from the EU, the volumes of supply of which is limited by the bandwidth of the transmission system. “Naftogaz of Ukraine” could increase the volume of gas purchases from Gazprom, but the parties were unable to agree on a new “gas package”, as it was during the previous two years. Kiev insisted on the signing of a new supplemental agreement, and “Gazprom” stated that it is not necessary for the resumption of supplies to the Ukrainian side, it is sufficient to make the prepayment.

Initially, the need to conclude such additional agreements emerged after the company filed mutual claims to the Stockholm arbitration court, presenting each other claims under the contracts for supply and transit of gas from 2009.

Initially Naftogaz in preparation for the winter of 2016-2017 years on the forecast for a warm winter, hoping to buy by beginning of the heating season 14.5 billion cubic meters of gas. Later, in preparation for winter intervened by the government, which instructed the “Naftogaz” to develop a mechanism for increasing gas reserves up to 17 billion cubic meters.

However, in the end, the authorities settled on an optimistic scenario, as the Ukrainian weather forecasters predict a warm winter.

“In November and December of 2016, the average monthly temperature is predicted to be close (to the average norm — ed.) and in January-February and March 2017 — above average long-term temperature for the base period from 1981 to 2010”, — said the Deputy head Ukrgidromettsentra Anatoly Prokopenko at one of the government meetings before the start of the heating season.

Meanwhile, a number of specialists, in contrast, predict a protracted and cold winter.

Transit is under threat?

The volume of gas purchased by Ukraine to pass the winter, the concern of the Russian Federation. According to the head of the energy Ministry of Russia Alexander Novak, Ukraine still need to save up about 1.5-2 billion cubic meters for the normal passage of the heating season and guarantees uninterrupted transit of Russian gas to Europe.

“Reliable transit to the European consumers depends on whether the secured property of Ukraine gas reserves in underground gas storages. Today, in our assessment, to pass the winter is not enough gas in underground storage facilities. Today for the normal passage of Ukrainian partners should be pumped about 1.5-2 billion cubic meters of gas,” said Novak.

According to him, in case of a cold winter, in addition to the risk of failure the uninterrupted transit of gas to the EU, Kiev can deal with the need of reducing the supply of domestic consumers. He added that the Russian side “is ready to provide gas transit and gas supplies to the Ukraine for injection into underground gas storage facilities — with the appropriate financial resources the volume of gas will be delivered”.

Judge weather

RIA Novosti interviewed experts agreed that Ukraine can survive the winter with these gas reserves, if not large cold.

“How the situation will develop is hard to say, because “Naftogaz” was planning that this winter will be similar to the previous one — with a calm temperature. If it be cold, of course, these volumes will not be enough, and how will be compensated the missing volumes is a big question,” said Ukrainian energy expert Valentin Zemlyansky.

In turn, co-Chairman of the Kiev Center for energy strategies Dmitry marunich believes that if the winter will still be cold, the selection of gas from storage will grow and not only in Ukraine but also in Europe. As a result, Ukraine will be forced to lift from storage more gas to ensure transit to the EU. “Accordingly, there can be “dips” (gas – ed.), travel and subsistence allowance on a more serious periods. May not have enough gas, especially towards the end of the heating period”, — the expert believes.

Zemlyansky believes that in the case of a cold winter, the Ukrainian authorities will face a choice: either to limit gas consumption in the domestic market, first by industry and then by the population, or in emergency mode to restore gas supplies from Russia, as the technical opportunities to increase the volume of gas purchases from Europe for today.

Marunych believes that even under the best scenario, at the current stock “Naftogaz” will be able to pass the winter “butt.” In recent years Ukraine over the winter used from UGS about nine billion cubic meters of gas. If such volumes will continue this year, by the end of the heating season in the Ukrainian underground gas storage will remain about 5.5-6 billion cubic meters of gas, which is close to the technological minimum, which is possible to pump out of storage (it is five billion cubic meters – ed.).

The expert believes that Ukraine in case of deficiency of gas probably would be used to reduce the consumption of “blue fuel” in the country than will jeopardize the failure of the uninterrupted transit to the EU in order not to spoil his reputation before the adoption by the Stockholm arbitration decisions on claims to “Gazprom”.