Russia Seeks Better Gas Flow

MOSCOW, Russia -- The world's largest natural gas supplier, may reduce Gazprom's lock on the country's pipelines and is seeking more gas links to Europe, which was hit over the past month by fuel shortages amid a dispute between the state-run Gazprom and Ukraine.

Russia plans to ensure equal access for producers to the nation's gas network, Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said at a press conference in Moscow on Saturday after the meeting of the Group of 8 leading finance officials. Russia also wants to build more gas pipelines to Europe, which receives a quarter of its gas needs from Russia.

"Some countries in Europe still experience disruptions of gas supplies from Russia via Ukraine in January and in February," Kudrin said. "It's not Russia that is the reason for the delayed supplies."

Gazprom, the world's largest gas producer and Russia's export monopoly for the fuel, cut gas deliveries to Ukraine last month amid a dispute over prices, resulting in a cut in supplies to Europe. About 80 percent of Russian gas exports currently cross Ukraine. The dispute has cut deliveries to European countries including Italy, Hungary and France.

Industry Minister Claudio Scajola of Italy, who is preparing to draw on strategic gas reserves amid a shortage of Russian supplies, on Saturday gave himself extra powers over the energy industry in the event of an emergency.

Ukraine is taking more gas than is allowed for in its contract with Russia from gas transportation pipelines that carry the fuel to Europe, he said.

More gas pipelines to Europe would ensure gas supplies, Kudrin said.

Russia's independent gas producers have called on the nation to ease access to its pipelines. Gazprom's reluctance to let outsiders use its network forces some oil producers to burn off or store gas they extract with crude.

Source: Bloomberg News