Ukraine opened the «small reverse» of gas from Slovakia

Ukraine opened the «small reverse» of gas from Slovakia
One has to make stuff up to provide Ukraine with gas nowadays
Photo: Reuters

The opening ceremony of reverse flow gas supply from Slovakia is scheduled for today. This route is the third European gas corridor after Poland and Hungary and the most powerful of those available to Ukraine at the moment. However, the «major reverse» supply of gas from Slovakia that would help Ukraine put an end to buying fuel directly from Gazprom will not be opened this year.

The third is in operation

Ukraine and Slovakia agreed to open this route for reverse flow supplies of gas from Europe back on April 27, 2014. The launch was scheduled for September. It seems that the two sides managed to fulfill all agreements without violating the terms. On August 16, Slovakia started test pumping to Ukraine through the Vojany — Uzhhorod pipeline. The tests were successful. On September 2, the gas contracted from private suppliers will be officially pumped to Ukraine through this line.

«On September 2 the grand opening will be held at the Slovakian border. It will be attended by the Ministers of Energy of Ukraine and Slovakia. Slovak Prime Minister may also attend the ceremonial opening. The gas is practically already on its way to Ukraine,» said Press Secretary of Naftogaz of Ukraine Olena Osmolovska. She clarified that the data on reverse volumes will be made public only today, but the names of companies supplying reverse gas to Ukraine will not be disclosed.

The Slovak route became the third and largest for gas supplies from Europe. While the capacity of pipelines used for transportation of natural gas from Poland is 4 mn cubic m a day and the capacity of pipelines for transportation from Hungary is 15 — 16 mn cubic m, the Slovak pipeline is able to supply up to 27 mn cubic m. President of the Strategy-XXI Center for Global Studies Mykhailo Honchar believes that now there is no technical possibility to import more gas through the aforementioned lines.

Already taken into account

Co-founder of the Energy Strategies Foundation Dmytro Marunych says most of the gas pipeline, which will supply reverse gas to Ukraine, was built on the territory of Slovakia in the 1990s to supply fuel for the country’s energy complex, but it has not been used for its intended purpose. Therefore, investment in the «small reverse» was relatively meager — approximately €20 mn and was used for maintenance and construction of a small pipeline connecting the Slovak and Ukrainian GTS.

Nevertheless, Marunych says the Ukrainian government should not be too optimistic about opening of this route. By March 2015 the pipeline will be able to supply to Ukraine a maximum of 3.5 bn cubic m of gas, which is included in the balance sheet for this winter.

As a reminder, on July 9 the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine approved a resolution reducing the limits of gas consumption for industry, heating companies and other consumers by approximately 30% up to 14 billion cubic m. Meanwhile, Marunych doubts that Ukrainian companies will be able to load the route with gas purchases in Europe to the maximum. «Winter is upon us and gas consumption and gas prices in Europe will rise, so Ukraine is on the backburner,» he said.

And it is far from certain that the Ukrainian side will be able to use the capacities of the aforementioned gas corridors to the maximum. «Everything depends on financial wherewithal of Naftogaz and private buyers,» said Honchar. He believes with the reserves available in the underground gas storage facilities Ukraine has a chance to survive the winter season without purchasing Russian gas, but only on condition that the temperature regime remains average. «We cannot rule out extremely cold temperatures, but if they come then even Gazprom will not help us,» he said.

Gazprom will raise objections

The pipeline from Slovakia is too small for the Ukrainian authorities to feel confident about gas supplies. Most hopes are placed on the «big reverse» — the line of pipelines connecting Uzhhorod and the Slovak city of Velke Kapusany. Four gas pipelines run in this direction from Ukraine and they can pump up to 280 mn cubic m of gas daily. The use of one of the four pipelines with a capacity of up to 30 bn cubic m per year in the reverse direction is the golden dream of the Ukrainian government, as it would allow it to stop buying gas from Gazprom on conditions of availability of the required volumes of gas in Europe. But Honchar argues that this year the «big reverse» will not be opened. «This issue is postponed until next year,» he said.

At the same time, even the «small reverse» would enrage Gazprom, says Marunych. He reminded that the Russian monopoly has claimed it wants to make conditions of gas supply for EON more severe. Apparently, Gazprom’s discontent was due to the fact that EON sold gas directly to the Odesa Port Plant. «Gazprom will fight with large companies and demand through courts that they secure the provision on prohibition to sell gas to markets of its presence,» says the expert.

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