How the explosion of gas in Austria will affect the business of Gazprom

The company will reduce gas supplies, but will receive a powerful argument in the dispute over the construction of new export gas pipelines.
On the morning of December 12, around 8:45 am local time, an explosion occurred at the gas distribution station of the Austrian oil and gas company OMV near Baumgarten, then a fire broke out. The elimination of the fire took nearly 6 hours, the company said - the operator of the hub Gas Connect Austria. One person died.

The exact number of victims is not known. AFP and Bloomberg reported 60 injured, data of the Austrian police - 21 people. The cause of the explosion was a "technical malfunction," police said. The version of a possible terrorist attack is not considered - "there are no signs of deliberate attack or any other planned act," the Austrian special service BVT said. The timing of the restoration of the hub is not yet known. "Restoring the work of the enterprise in Baumgarten is not a matter of hours, but days," OMV Bloomberg quotes.

The Baumgarten hub is one of the key interchanges of transit gas flows in Central Europe. About 40 billion cubic meters are pumped through it annually. m of gas from Russia and Norway. In the export of Gazprom to the countries of Western Europe, this route accounts for almost a third of supplies. Part of the gas is intended for Austria. Through it, the transit of Russian fuel is delivered to Italy and Slovenia.

After the accident, OMV reported that transit through Austria in the direction of the south and southeast has been suspended. According to the operative data of the Slovak gas transport operator Eustream, for a full day on December 12, gas transit on the border with Ukraine will almost triple and amount to about 50 million cubic meters. m instead of the planned 142.2 million cubic meters. The Italian gas transport operator Snam Rete Gas lowered the estimate of Russian gas supplies 10-fold - from 113.5 million to 14 million cubic meters. m per day.

Gazprom Export reported that "it is working on the redistribution of gas flows and is doing everything possible to ensure the uninterrupted supply of gas to its customers in this transport direction." Temporary loss of Russian supplies by Austria is compensated for by taking gas from underground storage facilities. The Ministry of Economic Development of Italy announced the introduction of a state of emergency, the country also expects to compensate for the shortage of supplies due to accumulated reserves in storage facilities.

Italy can suffer most from the accident. But even there the situation does not look critical, although it is not easy, says Dmitri Marinchenko, Director of Fitch Corporation. Deliveries of gas to Italy from Russia, Holland and Norway go through Baumgarten. In total, they account for about half of the consumption - approximately 35-40 billion cubic meters. m of about 69 billion cubic meters. m, points out Marinchenko. Underground storage facilities in Italy contain more than 16 billion cubic meters. m of fuel. It is not clear how filled they are, Marinchenko points out. But considering that so far only the beginning of the winter, probably not less than 70%. The gas in the underground storage facilities is probably enough to provide the usual level of consumption, even if the elimination of the accident takes several weeks. In addition, Italy can increase purchases of pipeline gas from Algeria and LNG, Marinchenko concludes.

Reserves in the underground storage of Austria - 7 billion cubic meters. m - should also be enough, says Alexander Sobko, an analyst at the energy center of the Skolkovo business school. Annual consumption in the country is only 9 billion cubic meters. m, he recalls.

Significant impact on the export of Gazprom, the accident will not have, suggests Sobko. "This will depend on how long the repair work will continue and how much of the transit volumes can be restored in the shortest time," the expert points out. "If countries with supply problems will take more gas from the storage facilities, and repairs will not last long, Gazprom may compensate temporary export volumes due to additional injection of gas back into the UGS."

"Even if it is very conservative to assume that within two weeks Gazprom's supplies to the region will be minimal, the accident will cost Gazprom no more than 1.5 billion cubic meters. m of gas per year, "Marinchenko said. - Not very significant in comparison with the plans to deliver [for export] 192 billion cubic meters. m in 2017 ". The possible loss of volumes can be compensated by the price increase, which in the most important hubs can be slightly above the normal level until the consequences of the accident are eliminated, believes Marinchenko.

The accident caused a rapid rise in prices for gas hubs in Europe. On the Italian PSV, the cost of gas grew threefold last night and reached $ 996 per 1000 cubic meters. m. For comparison: in the evening before the accident, trades closed at $ 292 per 1000 cubic meters. The rise in prices for the German TTF and the British NBP was more moderate.

The disruption of such an important infrastructure component will lead to higher prices, but it is unlikely to be avalanche-like, if we talk about the main hubs, Marinchenko believes. NBP at the end of the day was trading at about $ 330 per 1,000 cu. m against $ 310 the previous evening. But during the day, the spot price exceeded $ 400, Marinchenko said. "Despite the fact that the situation is complicated, Europe should be able to compensate for the supply constraint by reorienting the flows, taking gas from underground storage facilities and increasing the purchases of LNG," the expert believes.

A much more important impact of the accident could be on the discussion of the construction of new pipeline projects of Gazprom - Nord Stream 2 and Turkish Stream.

Up until the last moment, the representatives of the European Commission said that Europe does not need the construction of new gas pipelines. "The explosion in Austria, which put the largest gas hub in Europe out of action, will be a very convincing argument in favor of supporters of the construction of the Nord Stream-2, primarily Gazprom," Marinchenko assured. In addition, the position of those who support closer integration of the European gas market, including the construction of interconnectors, gas storage facilities and terminals for receiving LNG, will be strengthened, the expert believes. "After such incidents, it becomes clear that there is no extra gas infrastructure," Marinchenko said.

Additional arguments from Gazprom may appear sooner regarding the construction of the second thread of the Turkish Stream, Sobko disagrees. Deliveries of gas through the Nord Stream-2 to the south of Europe are unprofitable, he points out. Sobko does not rule out that the accident could be the reason for increasing the LNG share in the EU's gas imports.