Romania set ups joint venture with Gazprom

Romania’s Romgaz has set up a joint venture with Russia’s Gazprom for underground gas storage facilities that will boost the country’s ability to build gas stocks and could improve supplies to the European Union, the economy minister said Monday.

Romgaz and Gazprom each own 50 percent of the joint venture, which will store natural gas and sell it directly, said minister Adriean Videanu. Romania signed a memorandum on Friday and sent it to Moscow on Monday, he said.

Videanu said that under the deal some 5-6 billion square meters of natural gas could be stored in Romania. Two billion square meters alone will be stored at the deposit in Roman Margineni in northeast Romania, he said.

“This will bring (Russian) gas closer to the European Union which is of special value in winter,” he said. The EU relies on about 25 percent of its needs from Russia.

East European countries suffered during a gas dispute in January, when Russia halted supplies through Ukraine over 2009 gas prices and alleged Ukraine was stealing Russian gas destined for Europe.

More than 15 countries in the Balkans and Eastern Europe were left scrambling for alternative energy sources; factories shut and millions of people shivered in unheated homes.

Romania is less reliant than some of its neighbors on Russian gas. It produces about 65 percent of its own needs and imports about 30 percent from Russia. However, during the gas crisis, there was concern that underground storage facilities do not have a large enough capacity for prolonged disruption in supplies.

Romania was importing gas from Russia through the German company Wintershall AG.

It is the first direct joint initiative in natural gas between the countries since the 1989 anti-communist revolt.

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