Ukraine war: Russia reopens Nord Stream gas pipeline to Europe

After more than a week of “maintenance”, Russia reopened the gas tap to Europe by restarting the Nord Stream gas pipeline on Thursday. Moscow, however, keeps in its hands this important “weapon” to avoid the energy crisis this winter in Europe. According to the first information, the flow is the same as before the continuation, about 40% of its capacities.

Europe cannot do without it. This Thursday, July 21, Russia claimed to have reopened the gas tap in Europe by restarting the Nord Stream gas pipeline. After ten days of annual maintenance on the pipeline directly connecting the Siberian gas fields to northern Germany, Europe is readying Gazprom to turn off the tap for good. A situation from which it would be difficult to recover.

“It will work,” a Nord Stream spokesman told AFP early this morning. The first data published by the German network operator shows that the speed is the same as before the maintenance, about 40% of its capacity.

What is the Nord Stream gas pipeline?

The Nord Stream gas pipeline connects Russia to northern Germany, through two pipes that pass under the Baltic Sea, 1,224 kilometers long and has a total capacity of 55.5 billion m3 per year. Once the gas is received, Berlin re-exports 40% of the volume it receives to its European neighbors, especially the Czech Republic and Austria.

In 2021, about 40% of Russian gas exports to the EU will go through Nord Stream. The pipeline carries almost a third of the 153 billion m3 of gas purchased annually by the EU. Operating since 2011, it belongs to Russian Gazprom, which holds 51% of the shares. European energy companies (Eon, Wintershall, Gasunie and the French Engie) share the remaining capital.

Insufficient supply in Europe

In the context of the war in Ukraine and the standoff between Moscow and the West regarding energy, Vladimir Putin uses gas as “a weapon”, the President of the European Commission Ursula Von der Leyen also criticized on Wednesday. .

In addition, even operating at 40% of the total capacity is not enough to guarantee the supply of individuals and businesses throughout the winter. To avoid a major crisis, the European Commission proposed on Wednesday a plan aimed at reducing gas demand by 15% in the short term, with the possibility of carrying out this objective in the event of an emergency.

In Germany, Gazprom’s main customer, shortages could occur as early as February if the flow does not increase, according to assessments by the Federal Network Agency. The cessation of gas deliveries to Russia will reduce the value of German GDP by almost 5 points between 2022 and 2024, calculated by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Uncertainty about future throughput

However, Vladimir Putin announced this week that the gas pipeline may only operate at 20% of its capacity next week. The fault, according to the Russian president, in the turbines that equip the pipeline and that Russia made a new pressure instrument in the West.

The first of these turbines, which supply the compressor stations, was recently repaired in Canada by the factories of the German group Siemens. It is still on its way to Russia.

The second turbine should, according to Vladimir Poutine, leave for maintenance next week, which is likely to split the deliveries in two.

Gas as a political weapon

Gazprom’s gas delivery decisions were from the beginning considered “political” by the German government, which repeatedly accused Russia of citing turbine problems as a “pretext”.

If gas shortages are feared this winter, the explosion in energy costs is already felt, threatening a recession for European economies that have barely recovered from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The urgency is there for Germany’s first gas storer, and thus Gazprom’s biggest customer: the energy group Uniper risks bankruptcy if it does not receive aid from the State.

He must, due to the lack of Russian gas, to make his purchases in a market where prices have exploded. An entry into the State of the capital should be announced, Berlin is afraid of cascading effects comparable to a “Lehman Brothers” in energy in the event of bankruptcy of the group.

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