Fitch Ratings said today that a combination of events, demands and potential price rises could spark a new European energy crisis. The chief elements converging now are calls by Ukraine's prime minister designate to re-visit the gas agreement reached with Russia at the beginning of the year, new demands by Turkmenistan that Russia pay USD100 per thousand cubic meters of gas, reports that Naftogaz is not storing enough gas in its underground storage facilities to ensure uninterrupted supplies to Europe this winter, and indications that Gazprom intends to raise prices for Ukraine again in July.

"It seems like all the makings of a perfect storm," said Jeffrey Woodruff, Director in Fitch Rating's Energy Group in Moscow. "Any of the events in isolation could be enough to spark a new supply interruption concerns in Europe, but all of them colluding near the beginning of the G8 summit on energy security seems almost unbelievable."

Political parties in Ukraine have finally been able to form a new coalition after months of infighting and bickering that followed parliamentary elections in March of this year. Yulia Tymoshenko is poised to be reinstated as Ukraine's prime minister, eight months after being dismissed from her duties, after forming a coalition that includes the pro-presidential Our Ukraine party, Tymoshenko's own bloc and the smaller Socialists party. As part of her return to power, the incoming prime minister says, "All agreements on gas supplies to Ukraine today call for further profound revision, and for construction in a friendly mode of new contractual relations with Russia and Turkmenistan."

Gazprom has said that any attempt to revise the previously reached agreement could lead to renewed supply problems for Europe.

Gazprom has also said that Naftogaz is not currently pumping enough natural gas into underground storage facilities to meet winter demand. Gazprom believes that about 18.5 billion cubic meters of gas should be pumped into Ukraine's underground storage facilities before the heating season starts in order to ensure uninterrupted transit of Russian gas to Europe.

The head of Italian energy group ENI, Paolo Scaroni, has also said he feared January's crisis might recur due to the insufficient pace of gas storage. Naftogaz claims it has pumped 5 billion cubic meters of natural gas into underground storage facilities as of June 22 and intends to pump a total of 16 billion cubic meters into underground storage facilities before the start of the 2006-2007 heating season.

In the meantime, tensions continue to rise as Turkmenistan threatened to cut gas supplies to Russia after an agreement on the price for the second half of 2006 failed to be struck. Turkmenistan is attempting to raise the price at which Gazprom buys from Turkmenistan from USD65 to USD100 per thousand cubic meters. Any such price increase will likely have a direct negative impact on Ukraine as well since the country receives most of its gas from the Central Asian republic.

Fitch expects that Gazprom, which supplies up to 17 billion cubic meters of gas to Ukraine per year, would be quick to pass on these higher costs. In addition, successful price increases by Turkmenistan to supply gas to Russia would also likely lead to direct price increases for Ukraine, which receives approximately 40 billion cubic meters from Turkmenistan per annum.


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