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Norway does not fear EU joint gas-buying will create cartel

FILE PHOTO: Norway's Energy Minister Terje Aasland in Oslo

By Nora Buli

OSLO (Reuters) - Europe's biggest natural gas supplier Norway is not worried the European Union scheme to buy gas jointly in global markets will create a buyers' cartel, its oil and energy minister said on Friday.

After hosting talks in Oslo with European Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic, on topics including the EU buying plan, Norway's minister Terje Aasland told reporters the platform would facilitate "negotiations on a commercial basis" and could benefit Norway's energy companies.

The commissioner provided clarity on how the joint-buying would work, he said, adding the platform could help to connect companies such Norway's state-owned Equinor with small industries in need of stable gas supply.


Early this month, 22 of the 27 EU member states expressed preliminary interest in aggregating gas demand of more than 17 billion cubic meters (bcm) for the next three years, Sefcovic said previously.

Ukraine will also take part with a view to buying 2 billion cubic metres ahead of next winter, EU energy policy chief Kadri Simson said on Thursday.

The tool is intended as a temporary response to the energy shortfall created by the loss of Russian gas supplies, but Aasland said it could be adapted for hydrogen, for instance.

Friday's talks in Oslo also discussed Norway's role as a reliable supplier to the European market, after the country replaced Russia as Europe's biggest gas supplier in the months following Moscow's invasion of Ukraine begun in February last year.

Aasland said the EU - which has a mid-century goal to produce zero net carbon emissions and is striving to shift to renewable energy - needs to provide clear support for Norway's plans to expand its offshore petroleum activity.

"Be this further exploration and investments into oil and gas or be it eventually also the transition of parts of this to a blue hydrogen system, we need long-term commitments and long-term signals at the political level in the EU," he added.

Blue hydrogen refers to hydrogen produced using gas, with resulting carbon emissions captured in underground or in subsea storage.

(Reporting by Nora Buli; editing by Barbara Lewis)