MILAN, March 8 The crisis in Ukraine does not
yet pose a threat to gas supplies but it is a wake up call for
Europe to rethink its energy strategy, the head of Italian oil
and gas group Eni said on Saturday.
In an interview with Italian daily La Stampa, Eni Chief
Executive Paolo Scaroni said the standoff between Ukraine and
Russia would not have an impact on gas supplies thanks partly to
mild weather across Europe.
"But certainly if the tension continues I do have a few
worries for next year," he said.
On Friday, Russian gas giant Gazprom warned it
could stop shipping gas to Ukraine over unpaid bills, increasing
pressure on Ukraine's supporters in Europe, which gets half its
Russian gas through the country.
"In any case, precisely in light of this crisis, Europe
needs to rethink its energy strategy," he said.
Gazprom halted gas supplies to Ukraine over unpaid bills at
the beginning of 2009 prompting cuts to supplies of Russian gas
to Europe during a cold winter.
Scaroni said that Italy's gas supply structure meant it was
in a position to overcome any crisis involving a single
supplier, albeit at an extra cost.
"But if another one (supplier) went down the problems would
be serious," he said.
Italy, which imports around 90 percent of its gas needs, has
long-term supply agreements in place with Russia, Algeria, Libya
and the Netherlands.
In 2012 Russia accounted for around a third of overall
imports but data from gas transport grid operator Snam
on Friday showed Russian volumes were more than half of daily
Violence in Libya has reduced supplies into Italy and last
year Eni agreed to take less gas from Algeria as part of a
renegotiation of its long-term gas contracts with the country.
Eni, Italy's biggest listed company, is one of Europe's
biggest gas wholesalers.
Scaroni said it was improbable Russia would suspend its gas
supplies through Ukraine unless there was the threat of actual
war between the two countries, which he believed unlikely.
"The Ukrainians make $3 billion a year for the transit of
Russian gas through their country. For them that's a large
amount," he said.
Scaroni, who will be meeting with Gazprom's head on Tuesday,
said it was crucial for Russia to be reliable as a supplier to
its Western clients.