all about the turbine of contradiction

Russian giant Gazprom has claimed the return of Siemens Energy’s gas turbines to Russia “impossible » and considers it necessary for the proper functioning of the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline. Berlin denies these statements and accuses Moscow of looking for an additional excuse to delay the return of this turbine and further reduce the its gas supplies, on which the Europeans depend so much, and especially the Germans. Six questions to fully understand this diplomatic confrontation, the outcome of which is important for the security of supply in the Old Continent next winter.

What is a turbine used for in a pipeline?

The turbine is the center of the gas pipeline. It is the main component of compressor stations which allows the gas to be compressed and pushed so that it moves at a speed of 30 km/h throughout the pipe », explained Jacques Percebois, economist and director of the Center for Research in Economics and Energy Law (Creden). These compressor stations are powered by gas or electricity. Generally, a compressor station should be installed every 100 kilometers »refers to Jacques Percebois.

Why is this turbine at the center of tensions between Berlin and Moscow?

This turbine was sent for repair in Canada to a Siemens Energy site. Last June, the Russian gas group Gazprom then invoked this work to justify a large reduction in its deliveries to Europe through the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline. However, in normal times, this gas pipeline can transport 167 million cubic meters of gas per day according to Gazprom. It became the main infrastructure for the export of Russian gas to Germany and then to Europe. Today, Germany is still dependent on Russian gas. This represents 35% of total gas imports, compared to 55% before the start of the conflict in Ukraine.

Is turbine maintenance really the reason for the reduction in gas deliveries to Europe?

The Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline was designed with turbines from German Siemens Energy. For technical reasons, it is therefore not possible to use another manufacturer’s model. But Berlin, like many players in the West, does not believe in the technical reason that Gazprom has invoked to explain the reduction in gas deliveries. Many experts also believe that turbine maintenance is being used as an excuse by Moscow to gradually turn off its tap towards Twenty-Seven.

Today, gas flows through Nord Stream 1 are reduced to only 20% of their capacity. Russia’s gas shipments to Germany, France and Italy have thus been significantly reduced while Gazprom has completely disrupted its deliveries to Poland, Bulgaria, Finland, Denmark, the Netherlands and Latvia.

Where is the turbine now located?

The turbine is currently stored at a Siemens Energy plant in Mülheim an der Ruhr. So it was able to return to Germany, after Ottawa gave the green light in early July, when the maintenance operations were completed. The company Gazprom has been under sanctions since the invasion of Ukraine by the Russian army. So the Canadian Minister of Natural Resources, Jonathan Wilkinson, had to sign a permit revocable and limited in duration » to allow the return of valuable equipment. This decision sparked strong protests in Ukraine. Its president, Volodymyr Zelensky, criticized a completely unacceptable exception to the sanctions regime against Russia “.

Why hasn’t Gazprom received it yet?

However, the turbine has yet to reach its final destination and remains in Germany today. Gazprom and Vladimir Putin have often criticized Siemens Energy for deliberately delaying its return to Russia by not providing the documents required for its start, which the company denies.. More broadly, Moscow has ensured that the sanctions taken by Western countries against it delivery is not possible » of the turbine.

For his part, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz completely rejected this argument and accused Russia of being responsible for blocking the shipment. There is no reason that prevents the delivery from happening »he said Wednesday, August 3. Moscow just has to providing the necessary customs information for its transportation to Russia »he added, during a visit to the Siemens factory where this turbine is located.

What is the risk of this blockage?

If Gazprom does not take delivery of the turbine, Russia may use this excuse to further reduce its gas deliveries to European countries. However, if the flows fall further, it will be very difficult for some Member States, and especially Germany, to build up enough stocks to ensure security of supply next winter. It can have great consequences for his country and have many effects, the European markets are closely linked.

Faced with this threat, the EU-27 is trying to rid themselves of Russian gas as quickly as possible by reducing their consumption, diversifying their sources of supply, making more use of liquefied natural gas (LNG) delivered by sea, especially from the United States, and by accelerating the deployment of renewable energy. Many countries have also made individual decisions to make greater use of coal-fired power plants or to extend the life of some of their nuclear power plants, whose imminent closure has been recorded. This is the particular case of Belgium, while Germany, initially strongly opposed to this idea, is no longer so. If this decision is indeed made, it is can be a very strong political criterion.


Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder accused his own country

In an interview given to the weekly Stern, the former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, who was targeted by a procedure of exclusion from his party because of his proximity to Vladimir Putin, accused Siemens Energy. According to him, the German equipment manufacturer will voluntarily delay the return of the discord turbine to the Russians. In this interview, he also rejected the existence of a hidden agenda in Russia, which will orchestrate the gradual reduction of the flow of the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline. Finally, he openly criticized the decisions made in Berlin: If you don’t want to use the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, you have to face the consequences. And they will be giants in Germany », he warned. The former chancellor, who visited Russia last week, sits on the board of directors of this infrastructure, the commission that was canceled a few days before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.