Italy fears costlier gas due to Tunisia change

Reuters, Thursday 17 Feb 2011

Cheap transit rights through Tunisia may be reviewed by a new government

Italy is closely monitoring the volatile political situation in Tunisia, seeing a risk of paying higher gas transit prices for its imports from Algeria, two sources told Reuters on Wednesday.

About a third of gas imports to Italy comes from Algeria via Tunisia. Gas transit rights for the Transtunisian Pipeline Company (TTPC) owned by Italy's oil and gas major Eni have been set at a very low level, an Italian government source said on condition of anonymity.

But Tunisia's new government may want to raise stakes triggering a situation similar to gas rows between Russia and Ukraine which cut around a fifth of Europe's gas supplies in winter in 2009, the source said.

"Tunisia could ask to revise upwards the level of rights ... The government and Eni are monitoring the situation," the source said.

However, Eni's Chief Executive Paolo Scaroni said separately on Wednesday he saw no threat to the group operations in North Africa at present.

"We are seeing no problems so far in Libya or Algeria or Egypt or Tunisia, " Scaroni said in a conference call with analysts after the company's results.

Another source familiar with the situation said Tunisia could ask to raise gas transit rights that are paid in gas, because gas prices have fallen recently.

TTPC runs across the Tunisian territory for about 370 km from the Oued es Saf-Saf region, at the Algerian border, to the Cap Bon point, on the Mediterranean coast, where it is connected with the submarine Transmediterranean Pipeline Company (TMPC) pipeline.

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