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Russia's Gazprom Rediscovers It Needs Ukraine
By Kenneth Rapoza
Gazprom has rediscovered it needs Ukraine.
With the Nord Stream pipeline down for maintenance in the Baltic Sea, Russia's only real alternative into Europe's lucrative gas market is via Ukraine. Russia's biggest gas exporter needs its old partner Naftogaz, at least until it finishes building the Nord Stream II line right besides the existing one that connects north Russia to Germany.
Naftogaz confirmed Monday that the Russians were indeed back (and not to take over vital parts of Ukrainian real estate, either).
Gazprom submitted an increased order of 315 million cubic meters (mcm) for gas to be shipped through Ukrainian pipelines into Europe over the weekend. The daily order for transmission of Russian gas through Ukraine has increased by 47 mcm over the past week alone, throwing Ukraine a much-needed cash infusion from Russia. For its part, Naftogaz said it was ready to "carry out the increased order in full", even though the order size is not stipulated by the existing contract between Naftogaz and Gazprom, the company said in a press release today.
These two have been going after each other in Swedish courts for over a year now, with one side unable to agree on contract clauses and pricing. Russian gas was part of the dispute that led to yet another color revolution in Ukraine. The Euromaidan of 2013-14 ended with the ouster of president Viktor Yanukovych after it became clear he reneged on a European trade deal in favor of getting Gazprom gas on the cheap.
The routine maintenance of Nord Stream will take around 11 days. Ukrainian systems do not shut down during maintenance, making it one of the most reliable gas transmission routes to Europe. But the ongoing divorce between Kiev and Moscow -- coupled with sanctions against Russia for its role in fomenting civil unrest among East Ukraine separatist movements -- Gazprom has quickly found other suitors.
Turkey's BOTAS Petroleum is building the Turkish Stream pipeline as an alternative to Ukraine. Wintershall, OMV, Engie and Shell are partners in the Gazprom-led Nord Stream II constortium. Both of these projects are seen damaging a decades old arrangement between Russian gas companies and Ukraine's Naftogaz.
In the first 8 months of 2017, 61.9 billion cubic meters (bcm) of natural gas were delivered via Ukraine's gas transmission system to European consumers, up 23.4% from the same period last year and 45.6% from the same period in 2015, Naftogaz said. Most of it was not sourced from Gazprom.
Gazprom is still a major client for Naftogaz.
Last year, Gazprom used their pipelines to deliver over 80 billion cubic meters of natural gas, or roughly 46% of its Europe-bound gas deliveries, according to Naftogaz.