MOSCOW, Jan 12 (Reuters) - The Yamal-Europe pipeline, which
usually sends Russian gas west into Europe, instead flowed east
from Germany to Poland for the 23rd day on Wednesday, data from
German network operator Gascade showed.
Since Dec. 21, the link between Poland and Germany had been
operating in reverse mode, carrying gas from west to east and
putting upward pressure on European gas prices.
The pipeline accounts for about one-sixth of Russia's normal
annual gas exports to Europe and Turkey.
Industry sources and analysts said last month that traders
were preferring to take gas from stockpiles to supply European
buyers and avoid paying near record-high prices. As Russian gas
company Gazprom has not seen bids for westbound exports, the
pipeline has switched flows.
Eastbound volumes rose to 8.7 million kilowatt hours an hour
(kWh/h), up from 7 million kWh/h seen earlier this week, data
from the Mallnow metering point on the German-Polish border
showed, indicating that gas buyers are increasing their reliance
on storage after record-high front-month hub prices in December.
The Dutch TTF front-month contract gas contract
, a European benchmark, touched an all-time high of
184.95 euros per megawatt hour (MWh) on Dec. 21 when the Yamal
system reversed flows.
It started last year at 19.15 euros per MWh and was trading
at 83.70 euros per MWh on Wednesday, up by nearly 4%.
"It seems that they (European buyers) are taking gas out of
storage and hoping the price goes down in the spring to let them
refill storage more cheaply later in the year," said Ronald
Smith, senior oil and gas analyst with Russia's BCS brokerage.
The preliminary Gascade data showed that Yamal flows were
expected to stay in reverse at increased volumes of 8.7 million
kWh/h until the early hours of Thursday.
It is not clear when the pipeline will change the flows back
towards Germany, though a source close to Gazprom said the
company is expected to switch flows back at some point this
month as Gazprom has paid for westbound volumes.
Capacity nominations for Russian gas flows from Ukraine to
Slovakia via the Velke Kapusany border point, another major
route for Russian gas to Europe, 287,362 megawatt-hours (MWh)
That level was steady compared to nominations seen over the
past week but remained below levels of more than 900,000 MWh
recorded in early December, data from Slovak pipeline operator
(Reporting by Katya Golubkova; Editing by Rashmi Aich and