Lithuania to pay more for Norwegian LNG than Russian gas

VILNIUS, Nov 13 (Reuters) - Lithuania will pay at least 10 percent more for liquefied natural gas (LNG) imported from Norway than for Russian pipeline gas in 2015, a state-owned LNG importer said on Thursday.

Litgas said it had asked the regulator to approve a fixed price for Norwegian LNG of 1,100 litas ($397) per 1,000 cubic meters or about $11.2 per million British thermal unit (mmBtu).

That compares with $8.7 per mmBtu for winter gas prices in the UK and $13.3 per mmBtu for Asian LNG LNG-AS delivery for December.

On Wednesday, Energy Minister Rokas Masiulis said Lithuania was expected to pay around 1,000 litas per 1,000 cubic metres for Russian gas in 2015.

The minister said the price paid for Norwegian LNG would still be lower than Lithuania paid for Russian gas last year, and that LNG imports were helping to strengthen its bargaining position with Russian gas exporter Gazprom.

“From now until forever, our access to LNG puts a cap on what Gazprom can charge us”, Masiulis said.

Nonetheless, the higher price for LNG could raise questions about whether Lithuania will use the remaining capacity at its new 4 billion cubic metres (bcm) per year LNG import terminal.

Lithuania has long complained Gazprom has been charging it one of the highest prices in Europe, using this as an argument to build the LNG import terminal.

Litgas, a gas trading arm of state-owned power group Lietuvos Energija, has a five-year contract with Norway’s’ Statoil to buy 0.54 billion cubic metres (bcm) of natural gas per year.

Gazprom cut its price by around 20 percent in May, while Lithuania was negotiating an LNG supply deal with Statoil.

In the first six months of 2014, Lithuania paid an average Russian gas price of 1,080 litas, according to the energy regulator, down from an average 1,237 litas in 2013.

The spread between Norwegian LNG and Russian gas prices could widen further, as the latter is indexed to the oil price, which has fallen by more than 30 percent since June. (Reporting by Andrius Sytas; Editing by Nerijus Adomaitis and Mark Potter)