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Hungary eyes Qatari LNG imports via Croatia from 2021: minister

London — Hungary could begin importing LNG from Qatar via the planned LNG terminal in Croatia from 2021 as Budapest looks to enhance its security of gas supply, Hungarian foreign minister Peter Szijjarto said late Tuesday.

Szijjarto met Tuesday in Doha with senior Qatari officials, including Qatar Petroleum CEO and Qatari energy minister Saad al-Kaabi.

Hungary -- whose gas consumption is around 9.5 Bcm/year -- is keen to add new sources of gas to help it diversify its supply away from dependence on Russian imports.

With the startup in 2021 of Croatia's 2.6 Bcm/year floating LNG import terminal at Krk, Hungary will be able to source regasified LNG via new capacity to link to Croatia that is due to be completed by end-2019.

It is planned for up to 1.6 Bcm/year of capacity to be available in the direction Croatia-Hungary to enable LNG imports into the planned FSRU at Krk to flow onward to Hungary.

"Qatar has expressed its clear openness to beginning negotiations with Hungary on gas shipments to Hungary via Croatia," Szijjarto said, according to a post on the foreign ministry website attributed to state news agency MTI.

"Qatari gas could also appear on the Hungarian market from 2021, contributing to the security of Hungary's gas supply and pushing prices lower," Szijjarto said.

"We will be able to add 1.6 Bcm/year of capacity to the Hungarian energy mix from January 2021," he said.

Cooperation with Qatar, he said, could also "fundamentally transform" the security of Central Europe's gas supply.

The EU sees Krk LNG as a strategic gas supply diversification project for southeast Europe, which relies heavily on Russian gas imports, and the project has been designated of EU common interest since 2013.

Qatar -- which plans to raise the country's LNG production capacity to 110 million mt/year (around 150 Bcm/year) from 2024 compared to 77 million mt/year now -- has been looking to secure long-term markets in Europe for its expanded output.

LNG CROATIA

LNG Croatia -- an 85:15 joint venture between Croatia's state-owned gas and power incumbent HEP and the national gas transmission system operator Plinacro -- took the final investment decision on the FSRU in February.

At the time it said that 0.52 Bcm/year -- or just 20% of the total capacity available -- had been booked during a binding open season.

The Golar Viking FSRU was selected for the project, which has an LNG storage capacity of 140,000 cu m.

Croatia consumes about 3 Bcm/year and produces 1.2 Bcm/year, but its own production is declining.

Other supplies include 1 Bcm/year from Russia's Gazprom under a 10-year contract signed in September 2017 with Croatian gas importer and trader Prvo Plinarsko Drustvo.

The 10 Bcm/year Trans Adriatic Pipeline may also supply gas into the Balkan market after it comes online in 2020.

--Stuart Elliott, stuart.elliott@spglobal.com

--Edited by Alisdair Bowles, alisdair.bowles@spglobal.com