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Europe gas prices up as EU floats joint gas purchasing plan

British and Dutch wholesale gas prices rose amid colder weather forecasts, high Asian coal prices and as the European Commission outlined measures to tackle surging prices.

The British wholesale gas contract for immediate delivery was up 7.50 pence at 213.50 pence per therm by 1118 GMT, slightly lower than its intraday high of 215.00 p/therm.The December UK price was 16.25 pence higher at 241.50 p/therm.

The November gas price at the Dutch TTF hub, a European benchmark, was up 3.14 euros at 90.79 euros/megawatt hour (MWh). Dutch wholesale gas for December delivery was up 2.95 euros at 91.10 euros/MWh.

"Prices are up but off a bit from this morning and not as high as they have been. It is unclear, though, how the EU's joint purchasing idea would work," a gas trader said.

The European Commission outlined measures the EU could use to combat surging energy prices, and said it would explore joint gas purchasing among countries as a way to cushion price spikes. The Commission will "explore the potential benefits" of member states jointly buying strategic reserves of gas, it said. Countries' participation in such a scheme would be voluntary.

Brussels is also investigating "all allegations of possible anti-competitive commercial conduct" by gas suppliers, following accusations from some EU countries that say Russia's Gazprom has withheld supply to push up European gas prices. Russian President Vladimir Putin said electric power shortages were behind the gas price rise in Europe, and that Moscow was ready to discuss additional action, saying that there needed to be agreement on how to balance energy markets.

Russia said gas supplies to Europe had increased to their maximum possible levels, but market players were still uncertain about low stocks across Europe. Average temperatures in Northwest Europe are forecast to be below seasonal norms this week, Refinitiv analysts said.

Wind power in Britain is lower than the seasonal norm, forecast at 5.8 gigawatts (GW) on Wednesday, but is forecast to rise to 11.8 GW on Thursday, Elexon data showed.

Analysts at Engie EnergyScan said coal prices in Asia are higher, lending support to gas prices.

The benchmark Dec-21 EU carbon contract was up 0.88 euro at 59.81 euros per ton. The benchmark Dec-21 British carbon contract was up 1.59 pounds at 66.24 pounds/ton.

(Reporting by Marwa Rashad and Nina Chestney)

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