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Hungarian gas deliveries from Ukraine drop

Gas deliveries from Ukraine to Hungary began to decline at 4 p.m. on Monday, when the total amount of gas imported from Ukraine dropped from the regular 38 million cubic meters per day to 30 million cubic meters, Csaba Molnár, Hungary's minister in charge of energy affairs, said at a press conference held after a meeting of the Gas Supply Crisis Committee.

János Zsuga of MOL Földgázszállító, the transmission unit of Hungarian oil and gas company MOL, told MTI that Ukraine would provide information regarding Tuesday gas deliveries between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. on Tuesday morning.

Ukraine informed Hungary of the Monday decline in deliveries at noon on Monday.

Molnár remarked that the reduction in gas deliveries from Ukraine has not had an effect on gas supplies in Hungary, which has 3 billion cubic meters of gas in storage and a further 500 million cubic meters of gas in strategic reserve.

Molnár said that the situation has not reached the crisis stage, adding that there is currently no need to restrict gas usage and that not a single major consumer in Hungary had announced a voluntary reduction in gas consumption.

Molnár told MTI on Monday evening that Hungary is meeting its contractual obligation to transit some 10 million cubic meters of gas to Serbia and Macedonia per day.

Molnár announced at a press conference earlier on Monday that Ukraine had notified Hungary that it will deliver 8 million cubic meters less gas from Russia to Hungary.

The minister held the press conference after meeting Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány regarding the security of Hungary's gas supply.

Molnár said that gas from commercial reserves can be used to compensate for the 8 million cubic meter shortfall. Hungary's gas consumption was expected to be 70 million -74 million cubic meters on Monday, up from 64 million cubic meters on Sunday, Molnár added.

Until 4 p.m. on Monday, Ukraine delivered the volume of gas stipulated in its contract with Hungary, though pressure has not always met the 47-bar requirement, Molnár said.

Hungary does not accept Ukraine's statement on the drop in gas deliveries and has asked for an explanation, the minister said.

Asked whether the 8 million-cubic-meter drop in gas deliveries is “significant,” Molnár said deliveries could fall by even more without endangering Hungary's gas supply.

Because deliveries from Ukraine are not currently able to meet daily demand, gas from the commercial reserves is already being taken out, Molnár said. It has not yet been necessary to take gas out of the strategic reserves, Molnár added.

Nowhere else in Europe is there so much gas in storage as in Hungary, Molnár stressed.

If deliveries from Ukraine fall significantly, Hungary could also take out up to 4 million cubic meters of gas a day from strategic reserves. If this is insufficient, limits might have to be placed on consumption, Molnár said, adding that households would be the last of five groups of consumers whose consumption would be limited, while big industrial consumers, such as power plants, would be the first.

In response to a question, Molnár said Hungary pays the current market price for gas from Russia, or about $480 per thousand cubic meters.

Ukraine's president has sent a letter to Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány informing him of Ukraine's stand and asking for the EU mediation.

Hungary agrees with the EU's stand on the matter, namely that the issue is a dispute between two sovereign powers in which it should not intervene, Molnár said. The EU would take steps to resolve the dispute only if it begins to affect Europe's gas supply, Molnár added.

An EU Commission spokesman announced later the day that an EU fact-finding mission will meet Gazprom officials on Tuesday, although there was no immediate danger to EU consumers from the dispute. The Commission said the meeting would be in a European capital but the venue had not been confirmed.

On Monday morning, spokeswoman Edina Lakatos of MOL Foldgazszallito, confirmed that the stipulated amount of natural gas had continued to arrive to Hungary through Ukraine, though gas pressure was lower than that specified by contract.

The gas-storage units of E.ON's Hungarian subsidiary, E.ON Földgáz Storage, have remained nearly full, though the company is using stored and domestically extracted gas as well as imports to meet the daily demand. (MTI – Econews)