Stockpiling agency tries for third time to get winter gas reserves together

The Estonian end of the Balticconnector gas pipeline in Paldiski.
The Estonian end of the Balticconnector gas pipeline in Paldiski. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

The Estonian Stockpiling Agency (ESPA) has announced a third procurement to meet the government's set target of purchasing one terawatt-hour of natural gas for a national reserve for this upcoming winter. Two previous procurements have secured just one-fifth of this total.

The ESPA was able to obtain 100 gigawatt-hours of natural gas in both the first and second procurements. The second purchase was made for €19.2 million, or €192 per megawatt-hour.

Priit Ploompuu, a member of the ESPA's management board, told ERR that a third procurement has been announced, with the results thereof expected later this month.

Ploompuu said that there is a chance that the third procurement will secure the remaining 800 gigawatt-hours of natural gas needed to meet the government's target, but previous experience suggests that this is unlikely.

"Although we are anticipating an 800 gigawatt-hour deal, there is no reason to be that optimistic right now," he said. "There is also no obvious need to reach this limit. I doubt that [the third call] will be the last; fortunately, winter is still months away."

The purchased gas became more expensive with the second procurement, and based on trading futures — essentially contracts indicating at what price investors are willing to buy or sell quantities of natural gas at a future date — this trend is expected to continue with the third purchase. On Monday, the price of natural gas futures at the Title Transfer Facility (TTF), a virtual trading point for natural gas, rose to €200 per megawatt-hour.

Ploompuu said that while it is possible that futures prices would decline later in the year, the country should not bank on it.

"The problem with futures is that they can potentially drop in price as soon as the market receives good news," he explained. "And while such a scenario cannot be ruled out, we should not expect that we could purchase gas for €100 [per megawatt-hour]; that probably isn't realistic right now anymore."

The government has allocated €170 million to ESPA for the purchase of one terawatt-hour of natural gas, or €170 per megawatt-hour.

This limit was already exceeded in the previous two procurements, however, and in order to acquire the target gas volumes, the agency will almost certainly need to request additional funding from the government.

"If we do the math, we probably need to act now," the ESPA board member said. "However, we should also keep in mind the fact that we are still far from our set goal. It's not necessary to increase [the government's funding] at this time, as we still have enough money to spend on gas. Nonetheless, if we obtain a larger quantity during our next procurement, this issue may arise."

He added that there is no concern that the agency will hang onto expensively acquired gas if gas prices should fall.

"Our reserve is only for emergencies," he stressed. "This means that it will be used in the event that commercial stockpiles are depleted and there is a market scarcity, which often results in higher pricing. The basic premise is that if this gas is ever needed, prices will be extremely high. Our stock is the final barrel, so to speak."

In addition to ESPA's purchase of the state's strategic gas reserve, electricity and gas transmission system operator (TSO) Elering had also purchased a 105 gigawatt-hour reserve of natural gas this spring. The TSO's reserve is intended primarily for ensuring gas supply for protected consumer groups, i.e. homes and gas-fired district heating boilers.


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Editor: Kristina Kersa, Aili Vahtla

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