RUSSIA SHUTS NORTH STREAM 1 GAS PIPELINE, A ‘WAR WEAPON’ FOR PARIS
by Christoph Steitz and Nina Chestney
FRANKFURT/LONDON (Reuters) – Russia cut the supply of natural gas to Europe through the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline on Wednesday, a further escalation in the economic battle between Moscow and Brussels and fueling fears of rationing of energy and recession in many EU countries. .
The gas pipeline was officially stopped for three days, until Saturday 01:00 GMT, to allow for maintenance work but EU countries fear that Moscow will seize the opportunity to extend the suspension of gas deliveries, in retaliation for Western sanctions linked to the invasion of Ukraine.
Several capitals, including Paris, accused Vladimir Putin’s regime of using gas as a “weapon of war”, which Russia rejected, citing technical reasons.
According to data published on the site of the operator of the gas pipeline, which supplies Europe with Russian natural gas that passes under the Baltic Sea, the flows at the level of Nord Stream 1 have been zero since 01:00 GMT.
In Germany, one of the countries most dependent on Russian gas, the president of the national gas network regulatory authority assured that the country is better prepared for this kind of cuts because its storage capacity is filled by almost 85% and that it has other sources. in supply, liquefied natural gas (LNG) and others.
“We can use gas from storages during the winter, we can save gas (and we need to continue!), LNG terminals are coming and thanks to Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway (and soon France), the gas is flowing,” Klaus Müller wrote on Twitter.
However, new restrictions on gas supplies in Europe risk increasing tensions in the energy market, which has already resulted in a 400% surge in one-year wholesale futures prices for natural gas. A situation that fuels inflationary tensions and forces governments to increase measures to support purchasing power and calls for peace.
Unlike last month’s maintenance operations, the one that started Wednesday on Nord Stream 1 was announced less than two weeks ago and was carried out by Gazprom, the Russian natural gas giant, and not by the gas pipeline operator.
Paris has criticized the announced suspension of deliveries to ENGIE
Russian authorities, which have already reduced deliveries through Nord Stream 1 to 40% of its capacity in June and 20% in July, have questioned the Western sanctions, which they say are preventing deliveries and installations. of the necessary work equipment.
According to Gazprom, the new shutdown for maintenance should make it possible to replace the last compressor in service at the Portovaya station in Russia, an operation that requires the intervention of specialists from the German industrial group Siemens.
Siemens Energy, a subsidiary of the latter that carried out the maintenance of Nord Stream compressors and turbines in the past, said on Wednesday that it was not concerned by the work announced this week but assured that it was ready to help Gazprom.
Russia has also halted all gas deliveries to Bulgaria, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands and Poland and reduced the flow of other gas pipelines since the launch at the end of February of what it called a “special military operation” in Ukraine.
He announced on Tuesday the total cessation of deliveries to French Engie from Thursday, citing a misunderstanding in the application of contracts, an “excuse” according to the Minister for Energy Transition, Agnès Pannier-Runacher, for to whom “Russia uses gas as a weapon of war”.
“France has been preparing for this scenario since spring: the filling of gas stocks will reach its maximum in about two weeks,” he said, adding that Russian gas represents only 9% of supplies in France. , compared to 17% before the war.
On the German side, gas stocks are 83.65% full, a figure close to the 85% target set by Berlin for October 1, but the government has already warned that it will be difficult to reach the threshold of 95% targeted for November.
Across the European Union, storage capacities are 80.17% full, according to figures from Brussels.
(Reporting by Nina Chestney and Christoph Steitz, with Matthias Inverardi, Bharat Govind Gautam and Eileen Soreng; French version by Jean Terzian and Marc Angrand)