MOL: Russian gas supply cut again
Gazprom cut gas supplies to Hungary by 20% yesterday morning, due to the extreme cold in Russia, which has lifted demand for gas there. As a consequence, Hungary had lower pressure in its transit pipelines, which are now delivering some 2.5 million cubic metres less gas per day.
MOL says it now receives 22 million cubic metres of gas per day from Russia instead of the usual 29 million, while at the western border pipelines receive 8 million cubic metres per day versus the usual 9 million.
Together with domestic production, the maximum supply capacity of the Hungarian pipeline network is 96 million cubic metres of gas a day, which is now running at only 87 million cubic metres. However, at current temperatures, gas consumption in Hungary is only 70 million cubic metres a day, which means that the 9 million cubic metre drop in imports should not threaten gas supplies to any consumers. However, for security reasons MOL decided to restrict gas supplies to large consumers (mainly gas-powered fuel stations), asking them to change to heating oil supplies, as was the case in early January.
According to estimates from the economic ministry, restrictions on households could be implemented if the average daily temperature falls to around -10 or -15 degrees Celsius from the current -2 degrees, as consumption increases by some 2 million cubic metres for every one degree Celsius drop in temperature.
In 1Q06, the import cost of natural gas has been higher than MOL’s average selling price, thus a potential sales restriction — especially when higher heating oil sales redeem gas consumption — could even be positive for the company.
Please note, that price of the light heating oil was up 1.6% yesterday in Europe, despite relatively large surplus in the product on the continent. Speculation that few power stations of Enel in Italy and smaller other power stations in Hungary would change for heating oil from natural gas boosted the price of the product, which is also favourable for MOL.
Both the Hungarian government and MOL, however, expect the current situation to be only temporary and last no more than a few days.
Investors saw this news as positive in the afternoon trading yesterday, believing that a lower volume of gas sales – especially if MOL supplies a positive margin light heating oil to power stations instead of negative margin natural gas – could have some positive impact on the company's 1Q06 profits. However, more importantly we believe, rising crude oil prices have also helped oil & gas companies, which maintain the positive sentiment on the stock today.