By E. Gurkan Abay - Anadolu Agency
Reverse gas supplies from Slovakia have become one of Ukraine’s best hopes for a strong supply of natural gas amid fears that Russia could cut off its supply.
With Ukraine importing nearly 60 percent of its gas from Russia, discussions on the use of reverse flows of gas have been taking place between Slovakia, Ukraine and the European Commission since the beginning of April, when Russian energy giant Gazprom nearly doubled the price for gas that Ukraine had been paying.
"Slovakia offers reverse flow solutions via the currently unused Vojany pipeline, however, with limited capacity," said Jozef Badida, an independent energy analyst from Slovakia.
While underlining that the supply could not make Ukraine fully independent from Russian gas, Badida stated the move could improve its negotiating position with Moscow.
Badida emphasized that the delivery of gas to Ukraine would also help Slovakia.
- 'Alternative solution'
“More natural gas traded on our eastern border could create a gas hub in our territory,” he said, adding: “Slovakia could become an important gas roundabout in Europe. It is a Slovak change, too.”
But there are obstacles to any agreement.
Badida pointed out there were limits on the Slovak side, given its legal obligations in connection with an existing deal with Russian energy giant Gazprom.
“Ukraine has asked for an alternative solution - a physical reverse flow through main transit pipelines which might violate the terms of its contract with Gazprom," he said.
However, Slovak Economy Minister Tomas Malatinsky has said a memorandum on gas supplies from Slovakia to Ukraine could be signed in the coming days.
“The current situation in Ukraine is extremely dangerous and unpredictable,” said Edward Chow, a senior fellow in the Energy and National Security Program of the Washington based Center for Strategic and International Studies.
- 'Reputation damaged'
Chow stated that it was not in either Russia's nor Ukraine's interest to cut off gas flows, however it was the natural result of a worsening crisis caused by Russia's “aggression” against Ukraine.
“An actual cutoff will remind Europeans of the gas cutoffs in 2006 and 2009 and strengthen the European desire to diversify away from Russian gas supplies,” Chow said.
Russia accused Ukraine of illegally importing its gas in 2006 and 2009, and stopped its gas flows as a consequence.
Underlining that Russia's reputation as a reliable energy supplier was already damaged, Chow said the most likely means of reducing dependence on Russian gas could only come in the longer term.