Интересное интервью дала Елена Викторовна Бурмистрова, новая глава «Газпром Экспорта». Впервые, кажется, газпромовский топ-менеджмент спокойно и по существу обсуждает спотовую привязку в долгосрочных газовых контрактах в Европе. Интервью эксклюзивное (для IHS), поэтому только на английском и только небольшая цитата.
What is your view on the evolution of Gazprom Export pipeline contracts with European buyers? Will the introduction of greater spot elements result in corresponding changes with respect to flexibility in nominations by the European companies?
EVB: The liberalization of markets is a synonym of freedom of choice. Freedom of choice implies that gas market participants have a right to choose and change counterparties at their own discretion. Long-term contracts undermine the freedom of that choice to a large extent. For the lifetime of the contract, they imply firm obligations of a gas supplier to deliver gas anytime and under any circumstances. Buyers that enter into the long-term contracts take firm obligations to offtake certain volumes of gas or to pay for it even if they do not need it. In long-term oil-indexed contracts, the balance of interests of buyers and sellers is strictly observed.
The introduction of hub pricing in long-term contracts dramatically shifts the balance of interests in favor of the buyer. Take-or-pay obligations of the buyer lose their economic sense because the buyer can easily dispose of the excessive gas volumes by dumping them on the hub. To balance risks, shippers with firm obligations to deliver have to take nomination rights away from buyers by introducing contracts with flat volumes and 100% take-or-pay. Otherwise, the balance of interests will be disrupted because nomination rights in flexible contracts give advantages to buyers, including enhanced potential for price manipulation.
The example of Norwegian Statoil demonstrates the pros and cons of a hub-based pricing system when instead of spot prices, a buyer is obliged to fully receive contracted volumes under a 100% take-or-pay principle.
Hub pricing gives birth to another type of long-term contract with loose obligations on both sides. The gas shipper is in this case given an option either to deliver gas in times of attractive prices or to divert gas to premium markets in times of low prices. Such an approach is already broadly used in the LNG trade on gas-indexed markets.
Of course, it is the prerogative of the members of the European Union to choose the direction of the development of the gas market. Our partners should only keep in mind that there are certain obstacles on the way to liberalization, and it is still unclear whether spot pricing will outweigh the convenience and security of flexible oil-indexed contracts. Gazprom by all means is prepared to work under both scenarios.
In any case, asymmetry of rights and obligations is unacceptable. Shippers of gas to the European Union should also have freedom of choice on their side.