(Adds comments, detail)
By Krisztina Than and Balazs Koranyi
BUDAPEST Jan 7 Hungarian imports of Russian
natural gas via Ukraine are still halted and restrictions on
some industrial gas users have forced several companies to stop
production, officials said on Wednesday.
Janos Zsuga, Chief Executive of oil and gas group MOL's
MOLB.BU gas transmission arm Foldgazszallito Zrt said Hungary
received 3 million cubic metres of gas from Austria on Tuesday
when shipments via Ukraine came to a halt, but this dropped to
half on Wednesday.
He said the country's daily consumption was estimated at 64
million cubic metres on Wednesday which due to restrictions
could be covered from reserves and domestic output of about 8
million cubic metres.
But he added that consumption could rise if temperatures
Zsuga said Hungary may need to take further measures and
free up strategic gas reserves if consumption rises.
"Today's situation is even more serious (than yesterday),"
Zsuga told a parliamentary committee.
Gas is pumped at full capacity into the Hungarian system
from commercial reserves, which means some 51.5 million cubic
metres daily, but MOL's Executive Chairman Zsolt Hernadi said
this could be maintained only for 2 to 3 weeks.
"This is how long these (pipeline, storage and production)
can be operated at 100 percent (operational capacity) ... Time
is passing, and due to the amount of gas taken out from storage,
pressure could start declining," Hernadi told the committee.
Hernadi said the European Union should act to resolve the
gas dispute between Russia and Ukraine as soon as possible.
"It is very important that Brussels should take an active
role in this. I think Brussels made a mistake in communication
... Brussels thought that similarly to 2006, this will get
resolved as well," Hernadi said.
INDUSTRIAL USERS HIT
Energy Minister Csaba Molnar said E.ON Ruhrgas agreed to
supply Hungary with 2.5 million cubic metres of gas from Germany
per day via the pipeline from Austria for at least 10 days.
He also said Serbia had asked Hungary to supply gas from its
reserves but Hungary declined due to the gas shortage.
The unit of Japanese car maker Suzuki, one of Hungary's
biggest exporters, halted production and other companies
including a unit of U.S. carbon fibre producer Zoltek ZOLT.O
have also cut output sharply due to the gas shortage.
Several power plants switched to oil from gas, including the
900-MW Tisza II power plant of AES-Tisza Eromu Kft, local news
agency MTI reported. The main international airport in Budapest
also switched to oil from gas heating.
Hungary has about 3.8 billion cubic metres of gas in storage
of which 500 million are strategic safety reserves.
Hungary's annual gas consumption is around 13-14 billion
cubic metres. Around 80 percent of this is supplied from Russia
on pipelines that run through Ukraine and the rest is supplied
from domestic production.
Weather is expected to turn colder towards the weekend with
temperatures dropping below minus 15 degrees Celsius at night.
(Additional reporting by Sandor Peto)
(Reporting by Krisztina Than and Balazs Koranyi;Editing by