Greece seeks EU gas back-up plan in case of disruptions via Ukraine

ATHENS Thu Aug 21, 2014 9:24am EDT

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ATHENS Aug 21 (Reuters) - Greece has asked the European Commission to set up a backup plan to ensure liquefied natural gas (LNG) is available for Balkan countries in the event of potential disruptions to Russian gas supplies stemming from the crisis in Ukraine.

In a letter sent to European Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger, Greek Energy Minister Yannis Maniatis proposed an EU emergency mechanism to ensure that surplus amounts of lower-priced LNG are reserved for EU member states with gas shortages instead of being sent to other destinations.

Russia cut off natural gas supplies to Ukraine on June 16 in a dispute over unpaid bills, prompting concerns about possible disruptions to flows of gas which transits Ukraine en route to Europe.

Greece imports about 60 percent of its natural gas from Russia via Ukraine. It also imports gas from Azerbaijan through Turkey and from a domestic LNG storage facility.

Maniatis warned on Wednesday that a serious disruption in supplies to Europe was possible during the coming winter and that Greece and other Balkan countries could be hit harder that other EU markets.

"We have taken this initiative so that Europe launches a joint solidarity mechanism, which will secure LNG supplies in case of a stoppage," Maniatis told Reuters on Thursday.

The risk is that surplus LNG might be sent to Asia, Energy Ministry officials have said. (Reporting by Angeliki Koutantou; editing by Jason Neely)

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