Reportagem da REED Latam mostra a pandemia de covid-19 provocou no Brasil uma queda no consumo de consumo de gás natural. Segundo a Abegás, essa queda foi de 30% nas últimas quatro semanas quando comparado com o mesmo período de 2019. O segmento comercial foi o mais atingido que registrou queda de 60%, depois que shopping centers, restaurantes, padarias e escritórios tiveram que fechar suas portas. Procurando amenizar as perdas, as distribuidoras de gás natural estão conversando com o MME para estabelecer um fundo de R$ 3 bilhões (US$ 55 milhões)para cobrir o aumento nas taxas de inadimplência no setor. O segmento comercial foi o mais atingido, com queda de 60%, depois que shopping centers, restaurantes, padarias e escritórios tiveram que fechar suas portas. “A crise não tem precedentes e o setor de distribuição de gás, como outras indústrias, não estava preparado para isso. A primeira onda foi a queda drástica no consumo, e agora as empresas estão preocupadas com o aumento das taxas de inadimplência”, afirma Marcelo Mendonca, diretor de estratégia e mercados da Abegás.
A reportagem da REED ainda cita que a Comgas, maior distribuidora de gás natural do Brasil, registrou queda de consumo em todos os segmentos, exceto no gás residencial. A empresa está monitorando as taxas de inadimplência e os possíveis efeitos que a pandemia terá nos investimentos exigidos pelo órgão regulador. Enquanto isso, a Comgas está vendo um aumento no consumo no segmento residencial, com o número de conexões aumentando 10% desde o início da pandemia, já que os consumidores estão preocupados com o risco de escassez do GLP.
Strategic Considerations: In Brazil, natural gas consumption is estimated to have fallen 30%, to about 28m cubic meters a day, in the past four weeks from a year earlier, according to trade group ABEGAS. The figures reflect that authorities in the largest cities imposed quarantines to curb the spread of COVID-19 at the end of March. The hardest hit has been the commercial segment, which posted a 60% drop, after shopping malls, restaurants, bakeries and offices had to shut their doors.
Brazil’s natural gas distributors are in talks with the Ministry of Mines and Energy (MME) to set up a BRL 3bn (USD 550m at today’s exchange rate) fund to cover the spike in default rates in the sector since the COVID-19 pandemic reached the country, said Marcelo Mendonca, the director of strategy and markets for trade group ABEGAS.
The crisis is unprecedented and the gas distribution sector, like other industries, was not prepared for it, said Mendonca. “The first wave was the drastic fall in consumption, and now companies are concerned about escalating delinquency rates,” he added.
The number of defaults began rising after the last week of March, when most of Brazil’s largest cities put their residents in quarantine, Mendonca said. But ABEGAS doesn’t yet have final numbers for March, as it’s still in the process of gathering data from its members.
The natural gas distributors only end up pocketing 17% of the sale price to the consumers since they have to pay producers and transportation for the gas and then the government through an array of taxes, he said.
The fund gas distributors are negotiating with the government might be similar to a reserve that was created for electricity companies, which today holds BRL 21bn (USD 3.8bn), Mendonca said. The reserve, called the Energy Development Account (CDE), is funded by regulatory payments distributors have to make and was originally created to finance renewable power generation, discounts in tariffs for low-income consumers and the universalization of electricity services, according to the Brazilian electricity regulator ANEEL.
In early April, ANEEL authorized power companies to tap BRL 2bn (USD 366m) from the CDE to bridge their finances during the crisis triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, as reported.
The discussions to help the gas sector are preliminary, but the idea is to guarantee that the entire chain continues to receive payments, Mendonca added.
In the past four weeks, the consumption of natural gas declined between 25% and 30% from the same period last year after social isolation measures were implemented, according to estimates from ABEGAS.
Such a decrease has been affecting all the segments in which the gas distributors operate, the director said. The decline has been more significant in the commercial division, given the shutdown of shopping malls, restaurants, bakeries, and office buildings, among other establishments, he added.
The sale of natural gas to vehicles has also been affected, with consumption declining as much as 50% from 2019, according to ABEGAS.
“The drop seen in consumption from cars is higher than the decline reported during the strike of truck drivers in 2018,” Mendonca said.
Comgas, the gas-distribution business from Brazilian conglomerate Cosan, has reported that consumption fell in every segment except residential gas, as reported. The company is monitoring delinquency rates and possible effects that the pandemic will have on investments required by the regulator, the company’s CEO Luis Henrique Guimaraes said in a webinar last week.
Meanwhile, Comgas is seeing an increase in consumption in the residential segment, with the numbers of connections increasing 10% YoY since the beginning of the pandemic, as consumers are concerned about the risk of a shortage of liquified gas, as reported.