Russian Gazprom has officially halted gas supplies to Europe via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, cutting off flows completely to Germany for a period of maintenance that began at 01:00 GMT today.
The flows will hopefully come alive at 01:00 GMT on Saturday. But observers say despite faster-than-usual filling rates for gas storage across Europe, the continent may be heading to possible blackouts or rationing.
Fears are mounting across the European Union that Russia will delay flows beyond September 3rd as the Putin continues to use natural gas as a weapon against Western sanctions – an allegation Moscow has repeatedly denied.
The world entertained the same fears last month when Gazprom halted gas supply via Nord Stream 1 for regularly scheduled maintenance. The fears did not materialize but Gazprom did reduce flows after the maintenance was over, citing the same technical challenges.
If the current fears turn out to be well founded, full inventories may not be enough to meet demand, observers say. This, in turn, would mean electricity, heating, and gas rationing, Bloomberg reported today, noting the situation seem particularly critical for Germany.
Also Read: UK Hits Target, Achieves Zero Fuel Imports From Russia
The agency quoted head of Germany’s energy regulator Klaus Mueller, saying EU’s largest economy would need to reduce its gas consumption by at least a fifth in order to have a chance of getting through winter. Even if its gas storage caverns reach a fill level of 95%, it may not be enough for three months of consumption.
Observers equally note that tensions circled up high from early this week when Gazprom slashed gas deliveries to French Engie citing payment problems, causing yet another peak in gas prices, which are already sky-high and causing factory closures across Europe.
Bloomberg predicts that if Europe gets lucky with a mild winter, blackouts would be avoided. But if the weather does not cooperate, however, the energy supply situation in the region could become challenging.
Some observers are however somewhere near optimism; or so it feels better to feel. They take Putin’s words as they come. For them, Gazprom has said the cutoff would be temporary, as planned, and the pipeline would restart after three days “provided that no malfunctions are identified”, as reported by the New York Times.
Also Read: India May Join US Led Coalition for Russian Oil Price Cap
Meanwhile Gazprom has pledged that gas flows would be restored after three days, but warned that it will be 20% of the pipeline’s capacity – the same level of capacity since flows were restored following July’s maintenance.
This is the second time in as many months that Gazprom has halted supplies on the Nord Stream 1 pipeline. In July, flows were halted for maintenance for a period of 10 days, but capacity was limited, with Gazprom claiming paperwork delays for a turbine held up by sanctions in Canada, and Europe claiming Moscow was using this move in a game of leverage.
Since the invasion of Ukraine and the accompanying EU sanctions, Europe has been scrambling to fill its gas storage ahead of the winter months. Question is, will this aim be achieved?
Quoting inventory data from Gas Infrastructure Europe last Sunday, Business Insider said the European Union had filled its winter reserves to 79.94%, while it is targeting 80% by the first of November.
The European Union is closer to potentially intervening in the bloc’s electricity market as energy prices soar ahead of what would be a difficult winter for EU consumers and businesses.
Also Read: Russia Applies Huge Discounts To Counter U.S. Oil Price Cap Push
Earlier this week, European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, said the bloc was working out an emergency plan for intervening in energy markets, saying that soaring electricity prices were “exposing, for different reasons, the limitations of our current electricity market design”.
“We need a new market model for electricity that really functions and brings us back into balance,” the EC president stated