Russia's Gazprom said Sept. 20 it was trying to meet demand for more gas in Europe and was still meeting all its obligations, in comments that followed renewed criticism of the company's selling behavior by European parliamentarians.
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European gas prices are currently at record highs, with lower-than-expected Russian gas supplies seen as part of the reason for the price spikes.
The benchmark TTF day-ahead contract breached Eur70/MWh last week, according to S&P Global Platts price assessments. The price was last assessed on Sept. 17 at Eur65.45/MWh.
"Gazprom delivers natural gas to its customers in full accordance with existing contractual obligations, and does everything within its capabilities to meet additional requests," it said in a statement to Platts.
The company added that its exports to non-CIS countries had reached 138.6 Bcm in the first eight-and-a-half months of 2021.
This, it said, was close to the historic level of 141.3 Bcm supplied to the Far Abroad -- traditionally Europe plus Turkey minus the countries of the former Soviet Union -- that was reached in the same period of 2018.
However, the sales data is now said to include China, without which the non-CIS deliveries in the period Jan. 1- Sept. 15 would be closer to 132 Bcm, according to Platts estimates.
Gazprom has come in for criticism for not booking additional capacity via Ukraine and Belarus to supply more gas to Europe amid sky-high gas prices, but the company has said its focus remained on meeting its European customer obligations.
The attacks on Gazprom reached a new level last week as it emerged that a group of European MEPs had sent a letter to the European Commission urging Brussels to launch a probe into Gazprom's recent market behavior in Europe.
"We call on the European Commission to urgently open an investigation into possible deliberate market manipulation by Gazprom and potential violation of EU competition rules," the 43 MEPs said in the letter, seen by Platts, dated Sept. 16.
The MEPs -- from a range of parties and countries -- said the high prices had been triggered partly by Gazprom's "refusal" to book additional capacity for gas supplies via Belarus and Ukraine.
On Sept. 17, a day after the date of the letter, Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller said Gazprom was a reliable supplier to Europe "no mater how the cold winter and no matter how harsh the conditions."
"We always fulfill our contractual obligations in full," Miller said in a speech.
The MEPs also said Gazprom may have been holding back gas to pressure German and EU authorities to approve the now-complete Nord Stream 2 pipeline from Russia to Germany.
On Sept. 15, the Kremlin's official spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the timely launch of commercial operations on Nord Stream 2 would help balance European gas prices. "Undoubtedly, the early commissioning of Nord Stream 2 will significantly balance prices for natural gas in Europe, including on the spot market," Peskov said.
The timing of the start of commercial flows through Nord Stream 2 has become a key factor influencing European gas markets given the tight supply picture amid low stocks and global competition for LNG.
Gazprom -- the owner of the Nord Stream 2 operating company -- said last month it could supply 5.6 Bcm of gas via the pipeline in 2021, a rare piece of bearish news in the European gas sector.
However, the German regulator has only just deemed the application from Nord Stream 2 AG for approval as an independent transmission system operator to be complete, giving it up to four months to produce a draft decision.
That means a first decision on certification might not be published before January 2022.
Miller, meanwhile, said the European market was very much linked with the Asian market. Part of the reason for the high gas prices has been the growing global competition for LNG as the economy recovers from the pandemic.
Miller said the Asian market was proving more attractive for LNG suppliers than the European market. "The Asian premium remains," he said. "The flows of LNG go to the Asian market and the absolute numbers of supplies to Asian consumers are higher than to European ones."
The JKM spot Asian LNG price was assessed by Platts Sept. 17 at $25.08/MMBtu, a healthy premium over the TTF month-ahead price of $22.67/MMBtu.
Miller said total Chinese gas demand in particular was increasing quickly. "In the first half of the year, the volume of gas consumption in China increased by 15.5%," he said. "This means that forecast estimates of consumption in China in 2021 will amount to 360 Bcm," he said.
Gazprom is expected to supply around 10 Bcm of gas to China via the Power of Siberia pipeline in 2021.