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French H1 Feb gas exports to Switzerland drop as flows to Spain hold strong

French gas exports to Switzerland and onwards to Italy have dropped inthe first half of February as the competitiveness of Russian gas in Italyrose, while French flows to Spain remained strong due to subdued TRS prices,S&P Global Platts Analytics data shows.

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French flows to Switzerland dropped off at the start of the month andhave held steady at 2.21 million cu m/d since, Platts Analytics' data showed. This comes after French exports to Switzerland held at 19.77 million cum/d for a large part of January.

Day-ahead gas on Italy's PSV has averaged a premium over thecorresponding PEG Nord contract in France of 68.1 euro cent since the start ofthe month, down from an average of Eur1.19/MWh for January, according to S&PGlobal Platts data.

French gas enters Switzerland at the Oltingue entry point linking to theTransitgas pipeline which runs to Passo Gries on the border with Italy. This pipeline also has another entry point at Wallbach connecting it toGermany.

The decline in French exports to Switzerland was partly offset by aslight increase in German flows, averaging 20.9 million cu m/d so far inFebruary, up from 16.97 million cu m/d in January.

Italian imports via Passo Gries have more than halved for February todate, averaging 9.88 million cu m/d compared with 21.10 million cu m/d inJanuary. Lower Passo Gries flows were replaced predominantly by higher Russianflows through Austria, which have averaged 77.93 million cu m/d in H1February, up from 51.37 million cu m/d in January.

Current price spreads do not justify higher flows through Passo Gries,one sources noted.

"The cost of transport is high, so there no interest in increasing theflow," a trader in the Italian market said, adding that "a large VTP/PSVspread brings Russian gas into Italy, while the spread with TTF and NCG is notso convenient."

Meanwhile, French flows to Spain have remained strong through February sofar averaging 13.88 million cu m/d, compared to 11.02 million cu m/d inJanuary.

A trader in the Spanish market said PVB near-term was holding strong onthe back of buying interest. "Some significant trading volume on the promptlately, which isn't very common, so I think some players might have beencaught short," said the trader.

A strong PVB coupled with subdued TRS prices meant that the PVB/TRSfront-month spread for March delivery stayed strong averaging Eur1.73/MWh inFebruary so far, from Eur2.09/MWh in January, when the front-month contractwas for February delivery.

"TRS storages are quite high, so I think this explains the spread," atrader on the French side said.

--Ornela Figurinaite,

--Edited by Alisdair Bowles,