Ukraine and countries in Europe are ramping up imports of Russian gas in anticipation of a new transit crisis that could come in early June, data from Central Dispatching Department of the Fuel and Energy Complex (CDU TEK) indicates.
Unless Naftogaz Ukrainy pays $1.2 billion on Wednesday, May 7, for the Russian gas it received in April, Gazprom (MOEX: GAZP) may begin requiring prepayment for the gas it delivers to Ukraine, a move that could trigger a reduction or complete shutoff in transit of Russian gas to Europe.
Russian gas exports in May 1-5 were 16 percent higher than in the same five days last year.
If current export rates hold, exports in the entire month of May would rise more than 10 percent year-on-year. The increase is not the result of a low comparison basis: Europe's gas inventories were extremely low one year ago and it spent the entire spring and summer season building up stocks in underground storage.
Gas inventories this year are running at more than double the year-ago level. Nonetheless, European countries pumped gas into underground storage in April and May 2014 at rates nearly 50 percent higher than a year earlier.
Naftogaz Ukrainy has been importing over 100 million cubic meters of gas a day since April 18. If that level holds, it will import 3.5 billion cubic meters (bcm) of Russian gas in May worth $1.7 billion (at $485.5 per 1,000 cubic meters).
Ukraine's gas volumes in underground storage facilities rose to 8.5 bcm at the end of April from 7.2 bcm a month earlier, although inventories remain at just 26.7 percent of capacity.
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