* Norway has become Europe's biggest supplier of piped gas
* High gas prices have boosted Norway's revenues
* Some European power firms have been pushed to the brink
* Russia says gas exports to EU in 2022 to drop by a third
OSLO, Sept 15 (Reuters) - Norway said on Thursday that
sky-high gas prices were not in its interest and it would work
with the EU to steady the market, although Europe's biggest
supplier of piped gas is already at capacity trying to fill a
gap left by Russia.
The European Union is grappling with the impact of soaring
gas prices that have driven up inflation, pushed some utilities
to the brink and threatened recession, prompting urgent
proposals by its executive to protect consumers and businesses.
"It is not in Norway's interest that we have these
extraordinary gas price spikes," Prime Minister Jonas Gahr
Stoere told reporters after meeting gas companies to discuss
ways to bring down the price at which Norway sells to Europe.
Surging European gas prices, up 250% or more in
the past year, have sharply boosted Norway's export revenues but
created havoc for energy companies caught in the maelstrom.
Since Russia cut flows to Europe, Norway has become the
region's top piped gas supplier, with Moscow blaming the
reductions on technical issues caused by Western sanctions over
its invasion of Ukraine. Europe says that is a pretext.
Norway is expected to produce some 122 billion cubic metres
(bcm) of gas this year, according to official forecasts in May,
up 8% from 2021 as producers lifted output as much as possible.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said Russian
gas exports to the EU would fall by 50 bcm this year, Interfax
reported. It sent about 150 bcm to the EU in 2021.
EU energy ministers will try to approve new measures to
reduce gas and power prices at an emergency summit on Sept. 30
and have asked Norway, which is not an EU member, to help.
'TOO BIG A RISK'
The Norwegian premier's talks covered long-term supply
contracts. Energy firms said they were ready to sign such deals
but needed to know the counterparties, after a raft of European
energy providers have collapsed because rules have often stopped
them passing all their extra costs to consumers.
"At today's price level, it's too big a risk to take for
most private players," Oeyvind Eriksen, the chair of Norway's
second-largest gas producer Aker BP, told reporters.
"So it's partly a question of pricing mechanisms and partly
how states and companies can work together to solve this very
serious situation," Eriksen said, adding that talks would
continue and that there would be a solution.
"But it is too early to say what kind," he said.
Equinor, Norway's top gas producer, described
Thursday's meeting as "useful" and said it was important to have
contact with the government about Europe's energy crisis.
It added it sold about half of its gas via bilateral
contracts and the other half on the spot market.
Norway and the EU have agreed to form a taskforce, both
sides said on Wednesday, with the Norwegian delegation led by
the country's EU ambassador, the prime minister's office said.
Oleg Aksyutin, deputy chief executive of Russian energy
giant Gazprom, told a conference in Russia that Europe
did not have an alternative to Russian gas.
Russia, meanwhile, has been expanding oil and gas exports to
others, such as China.
(Reporting by Nora Buli and Nerijus Adomaitis; Writing by
Gwladys Fouche; Editing by Alexander Smith and Edmund Blair)