Hungary to import Romanian gas, reducing reliance on Russia - PM Orban

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Hungary will soon sign a 15-year deal to import almost half the natural gas it needs each year from Romania, considerably reducing its reliance on Russia, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Friday.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban attends a joint press statement with Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic (not pictured) in Budapest, Hungary, February 9, 2018. REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo

Orban told a news conference that three Hungarian companies had won a tender in Romania for the gas. He did not name the companies.

The government declined to comment to Reuters.

“Within moments we will sign an agreement, which will allow for the next 15 years the imports of over 4 billion cubic meters of gas from Romania,” Orban said.

“The era of Russian gas monopoly will come to an end in Hungary ... as we will be able to cover more than half of our imports from other, in this case Romanian, sources.”

At an economic forum later in the day, Orban reiterated that the Romanian gas imports could start after 2022.

Hungary’s annual gas imports amounted to 6.8 billion cubic meters in 2015, while its domestic production amounted to 1.8 billion cubic meters, according to data from the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Hungary currently imports most of its gas from Russia under a long-term supply agreement.

Consumption in Hungary totalled 7.5 billion cubic meters in 2015. It has dropped in most sectors, including the household sector, in recent years despite price interventions that have significantly cut energy prices for households.

The cross-border pipeline connection between Hungary and Romania is not yet capable of carrying imported gas from Romania.

Hungary and Romania agreed on Feb. 6 that Romania would create the technical conditions for exporting natural gas to Hungary by 2020, according to a statement on the Hungarian government’s website.

This would allow Hungary to import natural gas extracted on the Black Sea from Romania, it says.

Romania's OMV Petrom ROSNP.BX, OMVV.VI and Exxon Mobil XOM.N are expected to announce a decision over a Black Sea offshore gas investment in early 2018, Energy Minister Toma Petcu said in September.

Reporting by Krisztina Than; Editing by Kirsten Donovan