Ukraine and Moldova increase imports amid falling spot prices

Additional reporting by Luka Dimitrov

LONDON (ICIS) – Business activity is picking up in Ukraine and Moldova as prices spur businesses to weather the storm.

European gas traders are betting on a wide contango between spot prices and initial month prices to boost exports and inject gas into Ukraine.

With a day-ahead TTF gas price at €76.40/MWh compared to the first month and most European storage facilities close to saturation, companies are taking advantage of Ukraine’s 30 billion cubic meter capacity to inject excess volumes.

Ukraine currently has about 15 billion m3/year of unused capacity for new injections.

Traders said the Polish-Ukrainian border was oversubscribed with a record 5.6m m3/day entering Poland on Friday, 1.6m m3/day more than the technical physical capacity offered by the operator of the Polish Gaz-System network earlier this year.

During this time, almost 10 million m3/day were physically imported from Slovakia via the Budince entry point and another 10 million m3/day were deducted at the Velke Kapusany interconnection on the Slovak-Ukrainian border.

OVERCOMING RISKS

A European utility gas analyst said: “There is new import demand emerging from Ukraine which is pulling gas from the west – where margins are very tight due to weak request and [more] LNG.

“We have very low spot prices at LNG hubs and bigger premiums to the east, the TTF rebate will likely come down when it finally gets cold, but Ukrainian demand further cements that eastern premium for the winter.”

A regional market trader added, “There is a big price gap between spot and first month and Ukraine has free storage capacity. There are many risks, but at a certain level of profit you can accept it.

TRANSBALKANIC FLOWS

Meanwhile, neighboring Moldova is also benefiting from lower spot prices, which are around €80.00/MWh lower than the price it pays for Russian gas under its long-term contract.

State wholesaler Energocom bought volumes locally, particularly after Russian supplier Gazprom cut deliveries by 30% this month.

The country is now also working with partners in Romania and Bulgaria to access Caspian gas or LNG.

Moldova’s gas supply could be uninterrupted over the coming winter months after its gas network operator Moldovatransgaz announced measures to boost supply.

Moldovatransgaz announced on October 28 that it was offering entry/exit capacity on the Trans-Balkan gas pipeline for auction on the RBP gas platform from November 1. The exit capacity to Romania will be 36 million m3/day, while the entry capacity to Moldova will be 12 million m3/day.

The Trans-Balkan Corridor, which historically allowed the transit of Russian gas from Ukraine to the Balkans and Turkey via Moldova and Romania, is now also fully operational in the reverse direction.

The total north-south capacity of the pipeline is more than 20 billion cubic meters (bcm)/year.

Moldovatransgaz’s announcement comes a day after Moldova signed an agreement with Bulgartransgaz to access the network. The agreements will:

– access to and transport of natural gas via Bulgartransgaz’s gas transport networks;

– for the use of a virtual trade point

– for the purchase and sale of natural gas for balancing.

SECURITY OF SUPPLY

The agreement strengthens Moldova’s security of supply and its ability to diversify its sources, by accessing LNG terminals in Greece and potentially in other neighboring countries, as well as Caspian gas reaching Greece and Bulgaria.

Moldova has instructed the state-owned wholesaler Energocom to buy natural gas and electricity on the spot markets in order to strengthen the country’s security of supply.

The company is also listed on the Romanian electricity and gas markets.

Greek sources told ICIS Moldova that it can bid for LNG capacity at Greece’s Revithoussa terminal if it can prove it is solvent.