The Russian gas tap for Europe is gradually cutting off

Taps cut in Poland, Bulgaria and Finland, flow to Germany, Austria and Italy greatly reduced, no more cubic meters to France: the Europeans denounce Vladimir Putin’s gas blackmail, while the continent wants to use the summer to stock up.

• Also read: France no longer receives Russian gas via pipeline, reports the GRTgaz network

• Also read: Zelenskyy doubts the need to speak to the Russian President

In the fourth month of the war in Ukraine, Moscow is squeezing where it hurts and playing on Europeans’ energy vulnerabilities, 40% of the gas they burn typically comes from Russia. These proportions were even higher in the East: 55% for Germany or 85% in Bulgaria.

At the moment, most Europeans do not lack gas in the summer because the buildings do not need to be heated. But the cuts come as countries must use the summer to replenish their reserves, with a target of at least 80% by November in the European Union.

France and Germany want to avoid panic and reassure their citizens: the stocks of the two countries are increasing and are at 56%.

But the drop in deliveries is driving up prices, which is costly for manufacturers, especially in Germany. The reference price for natural gas in Europe, the Dutch TTF, jumped to around 130 euros per megawatt hour (MWh) on Friday from around 100 euros on Wednesday, while it was around 30 euros a year ago.

“Russians have been using gas as a weapon for a long time,” Thierry Bros, a professor at Sciences Po Paris, told AFP. “The Kremlin uses the principle of uncertainty, one day one thing and the next day something else, to look at our unity and strain the commodity market and drive prices up.”

On Friday, the manager of France’s transmission system GRTgaz announced that it would no longer purchase Russian gas by pipeline since June 15. This gas passed through a single interconnection point with Germany.

France relies on Russia for around 17% of its gas, which can be delivered by pipeline (the vast majority) or in liquid form by LNG tankers.

Flows through this gas pipeline had already been significantly reduced but are now down to zero.

“We have the means to meet our gas needs thanks to the gas supplies we receive from other countries, our LNG terminals and our built-up stocks,” Energy Transition Minister Agnès Pannier-Runacher said in a statement to AFP.

His ministry explained the reduction of physical flows to zero by balancing gas distribution contracts between France and Germany in both directions: the operator therefore “no longer has to circulate physical gas in the infrastructure.

But the disruption comes as Russian gas giant Gazprom cut gas supplies to Germany via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline by 60% this week.

“We should have no illusions, we are in a showdown with Putin,” said German Economy and Climate Minister Robert Habeck on Thursday. “This is how dictators and despots act.”

More serious are the consequences for France’s neighbors, not just Germany: Italy is 40 percent dependent on Russia and on Friday will receive just 50 percent of Russian gas requested by its national company Eni.

The Italian head of government, who was in Kyiv on Thursday, denounced a “political use of gas”.

Officially, Gazprom claimed technical reasons for equipping Nord Stream 1, but European leaders do not believe in it.

Europe is therefore looking everywhere for non-Russian sources of gas, via gas pipelines, but mainly in liquid form with liquefied natural gas (LNG).

France has four terminals used to receive LNG arriving from LNG tankers and plans to install more.

It has already greatly increased its LNG purchases since the start of the war and its terminals are close to their technical maximum, according to GRTgaz. According to the Center for Energy Research and Air Pollution Control, France has now become the world’s largest buyer of Russian LNG.

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