(Lubmin) Three days without Russian gas: Europeans are again on alert after a disruption in supplies through the Nord Stream gas pipeline on Wednesday for maintenance work amid rising energy prices.
Posted at 6:38 am
The disruption, announced by Russian giant Gazprom this summer, is related to “necessary” work at a compressor station in Russia on this pipeline, which connects the Siberian gas fields directly to northern Germany, from where the gas is then exported to other European countries .
Gas flow effectively dropped to zero in the early hours of Wednesday, according to data published online by Europe’s gas transmission grid Entsog and company Nord Stream’s website.
For its part, Gazprom announced on Wednesday that it had “completely” stopped its gas supplies to Europe via Nord Stream. “Planned work on a gas compressor station has begun,” the Russian group said in a statement posted to its Telegram account.
Gazprom, the owner of the gas pipeline, had previously promised that this maintenance work, scheduled until Saturday, must be carried out “every 1000 hours”.
But in the context of the war in Ukraine, energy is at the heart of a showdown between Moscow and the West, which regularly accuse Russia of using gas “as a weapon”.
Gazprom has reduced the volumes supplied by Nord Stream by 80% in recent months.
For the head of the German Network Agency, Klaus Müller, the work that is beginning is “technically incomprehensible”.
Experience shows that Russia “makes a political decision after each so-called ‘maintenance’,” he noted.
The prices jump
Adding to fears of power shortages next winter – a consequence of lower gas supplies – there is a fresh surge in electricity prices, which have hit record highs in recent days, which could send European consumers’ bills skyrocketing.
When asked about the resumption of flows after the three-day hiatus, Russian government spokesman Dmitry Peskov noted that western capitals have “imposed sanctions on Russia that do not allow normal maintenance and repairs to be carried out.”
Statements that are not very reassuring in view of past events: Gazprom had already carried out ten-day maintenance work on Nord Stream in July.
The company had reopened the gas tap after the completion of this work, albeit with a slightly greater reduction in the volumes supplied, which are currently at 20% of the gas pipeline’s normal capacity.
According to Moscow, this is due to a missing turbine that could not be returned to Russia because of the sanctions. On the contrary, Germany, where the turbine is located, ensures that it is Moscow that blocks the return of this key piece.
Before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Nord Stream transported about a third of the 153 billion m3 Gas the EU buys annually.
Hard work pays off
There is also uncertainty in Lubmin, the Baltic Sea port where the gas pipeline ends: “In July it was a long-planned regular maintenance, this time it was not planned and we do not know what is behind this operation.” An official from Gascade, a company , which transports gas supplied by Nord Stream across Germany, told AFP.
Facing the risk of a major energy crisis this winter, Europe’s leading economy has been struggling for several months to find alternatives to Russian gas, on which it is particularly dependent, and to reduce its consumption.
These efforts are beginning to pay off, Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Tuesday, after which Germany is “much better positioned” for the coming months.
According to the government, the gas storage target of 85 percent set by Berlin for October should be achieved “from the beginning of September”.
At the same time, the particularly energy-intensive German industry consumed 21.3% less gas in July than the average for the same months between 2018 and 2021.
And the increased use of liquefied natural gas (LNG) is on course: Several floating terminals are scheduled to go into operation this winter.
The first of these must equip the port of Lubmin and enable it to compensate for part of the volumes that no longer arrive via Nord Stream.
“We hope to be able to feed gas into the distribution grid on July 1stah December,” said Stephan Knabe from Deutsche ReGas, the company behind this LNG terminal project.