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Only few EU gas hubs could emerge as price reference hubs: OIES

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Only few EU gas hubs could emerge as price reference hubs: OIES

London — * Italy's PSV could emerge as the southern region benchmark
* Eastern Europe and Southeast Europe hub development challenging
* NBP and TTF hub maturity scores well above the others

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It is likely to see between one and three additional gas hub markers emerging in Europe other than the British NBP and Dutch TTF, and these hubs could emerge in Southern Europe, North Eastern Europe, Central Europe or Southeastern Europe, said Patrick Heather, senior research fellow at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies (OIES) in its paper published Monday.

The author also said there was room for two-to-four hubs to provide regional benchmark prices for physical contracts. But it is unclear yet whether some of these hubs can become a "European hub marker," from which physical contracts can be priced.



Italy has the potential to become a regional hub in southern Europe because it is well connected and has diversified sources of supply from Africa, Europe and LNG.

"An important potential development in Italy's development as a benchmark hub are plans to build reverse flow capacity into the Transitgas pipeline which could see gas imported to Italy from Algeria, Libya, LNG (and possibly Southern Corridor gas)," Heather said.

In central Europe, the Austrian VTP/CEGH could emerge as a hub for gas supplies to Austria, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovenia and Italy, as Austria is a vital transit area from Russia to western Europe.

It is more difficult to identify an emerging hub in eastern Europe, because of low activity of trading other there.

"At present the prospect of a vibrant traded gas market in Eastern Europe seems a distant one, but there is certainly scope, in time, for a regional hub here."

Both Greece and Turkey have expressed their interest in becoming a central hub in southeast Europe, but political, commercial and infrastructure issues still represent an obstacle for this to happen.

"The formation of a market is still unlikely to happen in the current decade."

Therefore, Heather thinks that the southeastern market will work at price differential with other regional hubs for a while.

The possibility for a gas market to develop in the Balkans, Southeast Europe or the Mediterranean region is dependent on "the confidence [from market participants] to support and develop such a hub that could in turn provide pricing signals for the underlying physical volumes."

The most developed market area in Europe is the northwest, with two established gas hubs benchmark, the NBP and TTF. But the northwest is also the region with the most disparity between "mature," "poor" and "illiquid" hubs.

The European Commission's Third Package and the Gas Target model, which aim to liberalize the European energy markets further, require all member states to establish a "balancing" hub, enabling transmission systems operators to balance the gas grid, boosting spot contracts.

"This however in itself is insufficient to encourage significant trading activity," Heather said.

HOW A HUB DEVELOPS

For a hub to become efficient, successful and mature, it has to develop three components: liquidity and data transparency, physical connectivity, and political willingness and cultural attitudes.

Heather uses five key elements to analysis the depth, liquidity and transparency of the traded gas hubs: who trades in each of the hubs; what products are traded there; how much volume is traded and over which periods; a tradability index; and churn rates.

When assessing the development of traded hubs, Heather also looks at gas price convergence and price correlations across markets, as well as the volatility of gas prices in different markets.

Source: P. Heather

Listen to a related Platts podcast -- Oil-indexation of natural gas prices on its way out from the European markets: http://plts.co/VC8Y2

--Lucie Roux; lucie.roux@platts.com
--Edited by Jonathan Loades-Carter, jonathan.carter@platts.com