The Russian energy firm Gazprom is increasingly off its stride in Europe, its largest export market. Bulgaria has managed to negotiate a 20 percent price cut in its new ten-year contract with the gas giant, an unprecedented reversal of fortune from only a short time ago. Gazprom had cut off gas to the Ukraine in 2006 and 2009 during contract negotiations, which left Bulgaria freezing for several days as they were on the same pipeline. Bulgarians are probably relishing their success now with no small amount of schadenfreude.
The cause of the turnaround, the Wall Street Journal reports, should come as no surprise: the shale gas boom in the United States. The US has begun exporting gas to Europe, and has also ramped up coal exports by more than 250 percent since 2005. The net result has been to knock Gazprom back on its heels. The WSJ reports that the negotiations with Bulgaria were heated, with Gazprom’s negotiators shouting in frustration on several occasions.Sponsored Ads
In public statements, however, the Russian company remains defiant (and perhaps in a state of denial) about the implications of the shale gas boom:
In Reversal, Neighbors Squeeze Russia’s Gazprom Over Natural-Gas Prices – WSJ.com
In Europe, where Gazprom once had a reputation for hardball tactics and dictating prices, customers are tapping new sources. Booming shale-gas production in the U.S. has freed up vast quantities of other fuel from around the world, including American coal no longer needed at home. With that new leverage, Gazprom’s European customers have squeezed billions of dollars in discounts from the company, and they are pressing for more.