A government decree concerning natural gas sales
on commodity exchanges recently signed by Russian president-elect
Vladimir Putin will not mean a resurrection of the defunct
Mezhregiongaz (MRG) electronic trading platform (ETP), MRG told
ICIS on 25 April.
According to the decree, incumbent producer
Gazprom and its subsidiaries
are allowed to sell up to 15 billion
cubic metres (Gm³) of gas in 2012 via commodity
exchanges. The volume may be increased to 17.5Gm³/year starting in
2013 after all previous contractual obligations have been met.
The decree also states Gazprom will not be
allowed to sell more gas than independent traders via the bourses.
But it remains unclear how this would be implemented in
The Gazprom-owned MRG ETP functioned as a pilot
project that began in 2006. Following its closure at the end of
2008, uncertainties surrounding the global economic crisis
discouraged any serious efforts to bring it back to operation. “The
signing of the decree does not mean a relaunch of Gazprom’s
Mezhregiongaz ETP. The law on organised trading adopted a year ago,
defined all acceptable norms of electronic trading, and already
then it was stated the ETP could not function in the same format as
before. The new decree does not change anything in this respect,” a
MRG spokeswoman said. “At the same time, it is obvious the gas
trading regime developed by the ETP is unique, and it will probably
be used to launch gas exchange trading in Russia [in the future],”
the spokeswoman added.
Volumes traded on the exchange in
the past had been insignificant, however, and doubts remain whether
trading would take off given current economic conditions and the
oversupply of gas, according to Sergey Vakhrameev, an analyst at
investment company Metropol.
The decree also introduces unspecified changes
into the law regulating independents’ access to Russia’s pipeline
system controlled by Gazprom. The gas major is obliged to transport
the exchange traded volumes.
This should enable independent producers to
further increase their market position, which has continually been
hindered by Gazprom blocking access to the grid.
In 2011, the independents raised their share of
gas production in Russia to 24% from 22% in 2010. Last year,
Russian independents produced 160.9Gm³ of gas out of a total
Russian gas production of 670.5Gm³.
Vakhrameev said that, in theory,
exchange trading could provide some kind of a price benchmark for
independents selling their gas to Gazprom. However, such a price
reference also would be skewed by transportation
Transport charges for independents using
Gazprom’s pipelines are regulated.