Norway would only help EU with gas crisis if price right

By Barbara Lewis

By Barbara Lewis

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Non-EU nation Norway will only help the European Union with any supply crisis caused by the Russia-Ukraine gas price dispute if it makes commercial sense, officials told a meeting called in Brussels on Friday to address energy security.

Ukraine, which also attended the meeting of the EU gas coordination group, promised it would ensure "continued and undisturbed transport of gas".

So far, none of the 28 EU member states has reported any disruption, the European Commission, which chaired the meeting, said in a statement.

The meeting of EU industry and national experts, plus officials from Norway and Ukraine, was one of a series this year as conflict has raged between Russia and Ukraine - a transit route for about half of the gas Russia supplies to the EU.

Concerns over possible disruption of shipments to the EU intensified this week after Gazprom cut off Ukraine's gas because of unpaid bills and disagreements over pricing.

For now, the gas situation is comfortable, with all gas fields in the EU running at maximum capacity and storage levels ample at 53 billion cubic metres (bcm), more than a year ago following a mild winter, the Commission statement said.

In total, EU gas demand is around 485 bcm, of which Russia supplies around 30 percent.

EU Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger, who has been brokering talks between Russia and Ukraine, has said he will use the summer months to try to resolve the gas price row.

He holds a meeting with Ukraine's energy minister on Tuesday. On Thursday and Friday EU heads of state and government will debate energy security at summit talks.

In the event Oettinger does not get a solution in time for peak winter demand, EU gas industry sources say they have more options than in previous gas crises in 2006 and 2009 because of improved storage and better infrastructure, including facilities for handling liquefied natural gas (LNG).

Norway, which neighbours the European Union and is the No. 2 supplier to Europe after Russia, would be the obvious place to turn to for extra EU supplies.

However, non-EU supplier Norway told the meeting the availability of extra gas in periods of high demand depended on "the attractiveness of European prices and commercial decisions", the Commission said in a statement. Norway said excess pipeline capacity was available, but there could be technical constraints.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration said that in 2013, 13 percent of Norwegian gas exports went to buyers beyond Europe.

Russia says EU supplies were affected in the previous gas price disputes because Ukraine siphoned off the gas it needed from shipments meant for the EU.

(Editing by Keiron Henderson)