* Ukraine plans to boost gas imports from Europe
* Has failed to renegotiate long-term contract with Russia
* LNG and Turkmen imports less feasible - analyst
By Olzhas Auyezov
KIEV, Feb 26 Ukraine wants to import up to 8
billion cubic metres of gas a year from central Europe to
replace expensive Russian supplies and take advantage of lower
prices on the European spot market, a senior energy official
said on Tuesday.
Vadym Chuprun, deputy head of Ukrainian state energy firm
Naftogaz, said Ukraine wanted to receive gas shipments through
Poland, Hungary and Slovakia.
"I think the total volume (of supplies from Poland) will
reach 1 billion cubic metres (bcm) this year," he told reporters
at an energy conference in Kiev.
"Separately, we plan to sign contracts on gas supplies in
the amount of up to 7 bcm through Hungary and Slovakia."
This year, however, total imports from Europe are likely to
stand at a more modest level of 2 bcm, Chuprun told Reuters
At the same time, Chuprun said, Ukraine planned to cut
imports of Russian gas to 18-20 billion cubic metres this year
from an estimated 24-25 billion in 2012.
All the three countries - Poland, Hungary and Slovakia -
receive natural gas from Russia shipped via Ukrainian pipelines
and Kiev wants to reverse some of those links to import gas from
Earlier this week, Ukrainian Energy Minister Eduard
Stavytsky said Kiev could eventually completely replace Russian
supplies with those from Europe.
Ukraine is paying about $430 per thousand cubic metres of
gas imported from Russia. Last December, it bought the first
small batch - 57 million cubic metres - of gas from Germany's
RWE at $408 per thousand cubic metres.
The disparity - which can become even larger if the European
spot price declines - is due to the fact that Ukraine buys
Russian gas under a 10-year contract signed in 2009 which links
the price of gas to that of oil and oil products.
The government of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich has
sought since 2010 to renegotiate the contract signed by a
previous cabinet but has so far failed to win any concessions
As a result, Kiev started exploring other options such as
importing gas from Turkmenistan, building a terminal to receive
liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the Gulf and purchasing the
fuel on the European spot market.
According to Simon Pirani, a researcher at the Oxford
Institute for Energy Studies, the latter option is the most
The LNG project is too costly, Pirani said, and faces
opposition from Turkey which says it may not allow LNG tankers
to pass the congested Bosphorus straits. And Turkmenistan would
rather export its gas to nearby China.
"For Ukraine, overcoming obstacles to accessing gas from
Europe may be far easier," Pirani told the energy conference in
The obstacles in this case are both technical, such as
reversing some pipeline without interrupting the transit of
Russian gas to Europe, and legal, such as getting around the
"take it or pay for it anyway" clause in the 2009 deal with
Moscow has already made it clear it was unhappy with Ukraine
reducing imports and sent Kiev a $7 billion bill last month for
what it says are volumes of gas Ukraine was obliged to buy.
Ukraine has refused to pay the bill and it is not clear if
Moscow plans to take Kiev to arbitration over the issue.
(Additional reporting by Pavel Polityuk; editing by Keiron