News ID: 323875
Published: 0247 GMT August 31, 2022

Russia deepens Europe's energy squeeze with new gas halt

Russia deepens Europe's energy squeeze with new gas halt
Pipes at the landfall facilities of the 'Nord Stream 1' gas pipeline are pictured in Lubmin, Germany.

HANNIBAL HANSCHKE/REUTERS

Russia halted gas supplies via Europe's key supply route on Wednesday, intensifying an economic battle between Moscow and Brussels and raising the prospects of recession and energy rationing in some of the region's richest countries.

European governments fear Moscow could extend the outage in retaliation for Western sanctions imposed after it launched its military operation in Ukraine and have accused Russia of using energy supplies as a "weapon of war". Moscow denies doing this and has cited technical reasons for supply cuts, Reuters reported.

Russian state energy giant Gazprom said Nord Stream 1, the biggest pipeline carrying gas to its top customer Germany, is out for maintenance from 0100 GMT on Aug. 31 to 0100 GMT on Sept. 3.

The president of the German network regulator said Germany was now better prepared for the outages as its gas storage was nearly 85% filled and it was securing supplies from other sources.

Further restrictions to European gas supplies would deepen an energy crunch that has already triggered a 400% surge in wholesale gas prices since last August, squeezing consumers and businesses and forcing governments to spend billions to ease the burden.

In Germany, inflation soared to its highest in almost 50 years in August and consumer sentiment soured as households brace for a spike in energy bills.

Unlike last month's 10-day maintenance for Nord Stream 1, the latest work was announced less than two weeks in advance and is being carried out by Gazprom rather than its operator.

Moscow, which slashed supply via the pipeline to 40% of capacity in June and to 20% in July, blames maintenance issues and sanctions it says prevent the return and installation of equipment.

Russia said on Wednesday the German government, not the Kremlin, was doing everything it could to ruin its energy relations with Moscow.

Russia has also stopped supplying Bulgaria, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands and Poland, and reduced flows via other pipelines since launching what Moscow calls its "special military operation" in Ukraine.

Gazprom said on Tuesday it would also suspend gas deliveries to its French contractor because of a payments dispute, which France's energy minister called an excuse, but added that the country had anticipated the loss of supply.

German Economy Minister Robert Habeck, on a mission to replace Russian gas imports by mid-2024, earlier this month said Nord Stream 1 was "fully operational" and there were no technical issues as claimed by Moscow.

The reduced flows via Nord Stream have complicated efforts across Europe to save enough gas to make it through the winter months, when governments fear Russia may halt flows altogether.

In the meantime, some Europeans are voluntarily cutting their energy consumption, including limiting their use of electrical appliances and showering at work to save money while companies are bracing for possible rationing.

With storage tanks filled in 83.65%, Germany is already close to its 85% target set for Oct. 1, but it has warned reaching 95% by Nov. 1 would be a stretch unless companies and households slash consumption.

European Union as a whole reached 80.17% of its storage capacity, already ahead of the 80% target set for Oct. 1, when the continent's heating season starts.

 

 

 

 

   
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