September 29, 2016 / 2:42 PM / a year ago

Latvia's Latvenergo plans to trade gas in the Baltics

RIGA, Sept 29 (Reuters) - Lavia's state-owned utility Latvenergo plans to trade gas in neighbouring Estonia and at home as its domestic market is liberalized next year, its Chief Operating Officer said on Thursday.

Latvia has decided to open its gas market for competition from April next year after decades of a supply monopoly by Russian Gazprom.

"Yes, we are looking at this direction (of becoming a gas trader) and we are interested in that," COO Maris Kunickis told Reuters on the sidelines of an energy conference.

He said the company could start trading gas in Estonia, which has liberalized its market, from the next year, while domestic trade will start most likely at the beginning of 2018.

Kunickis said Latvenergo, the biggest gas consumer in the Baltic states, had an advantage of buying large quantities at competitive prices.

The power producer buys about 500 million cubic metres (mcm) of gas per year.

Gazprom has been the sole supplier to Latvia, but Latvenergo has said it was looking at the possibility of buying gas from neighbouring Lithuania, which started importing liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Norway at end-2014.

Latvia's gas consumption stood at 1.3 billion cubic metres (bcm0, while the combined demand of the three Baltic states was at 4.3 bcm in 2015.

Combined gas demand in the Baltic states has declined by more than 20 percent over the last five years, largely due to increased use of biomass in the heating sector. (Reporting by Gederts Gelzis; Writing by Nerijus Adomaitis, editing by William Hardy)

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