Russia raises the pulse with Europe by partially closing the gas tap | International

Moscow gives another twist to the gas tap that feeds Europe. The Russian hydrocarbon giant Gazprom announced this Wednesday a new reduction in the quantities of gas it delivers to the countries of the European Union through the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline. This time those affected are Germany and Italy. In the first case, it will pump up to two-thirds less of the gas with which Berlin is hastily filling its tanks to ensure stocks in the fall and winter. Italy will receive 15% less supply and, unlike the German case, in which Gazprom alleges technical problems, the company has hardly explained why. The announcement comes on the eve of a visit to kyiv that the leaders of Germany, France and Italy are expected to make.

The Russian gas company had announced on Tuesday a cut in shipments to Germany from 167 million cubic meters per day to 100 million, arguing that it had to stop the operation of a gas turbine from Germany’s Siemens at the main compression station of the gas pipeline. A new communication this Wednesday further reduces the volume, to 67 million cubic meters per day. The technical excuses have not convinced Berlin, which considers that what Gazprom is trying to do is “push up the price of gas”. Mission accomplished: as has happened every time the gas company makes an announcement of this type, the market became nervous and gas once again exceeded 100 euros per megawatt hour.

“The data clearly shows that the Russian justifications are nothing more than an excuse. It is evident that it is a strategy to destabilize and raise prices”, assured the Minister of Economy and Climate, the green Robert Habeck, it’s a statement. It does not seem that the moment is chosen at random. Although it has not been officially confirmed, the Ukrainian government expects an imminent visit from the German chancellor, Olaf Scholz; French President Emmanuel Macron; and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi. It would be the first trip to kyiv for the three leaders since the beginning of the invasion. And Moscow, as Berlin suspects, would be heating up the atmosphere on the eve of his arrival. The meeting with the Ukrainian president, Volodímir Zelenski, will take place on Thursday, German and Italian media report.

The energetic push and pull that Moscow and Berlin have maintained since even before the Russian invasion of Ukraine began thus adds a new chapter. The Baltic Sea pipeline is currently the main source of Russian gas supply to Germany after Moscow shut down the Yamal-Europe gas pipeline and cut shipments through Ukraine. Berlin and Brussels have assured that there will be no shortages. The European Commission also recalls that Nord Stream 1 barely represents 10% of EU gas imports, reports Bernard of Miguel. Nord Stream 2, a second gas pipeline that was going to double the amount of gas that runs through the Baltic seabed, was paralyzed by the government of Social Democrat Olaf Scholz a few days before the invasion.

The European Commission relativizes the impact of the latest cuts in Russian supply, but has accelerated the search for alternatives. The president of the organization, Ursula von der Leyen, signed a memorandum with Israel and Egypt on Wednesday to increase imports of Israeli gas. The agreement provides for the shipment of Israeli gas to Egypt, where it will be liquefied before being re-exported to the EU. Brussels calculates that it will soon be possible to import 5,000 million cubic meters through this route and that this figure could double next year. The Commission has underlined that Russian gas imports have already gone from 45% of the total in April 2021 to 31% in April this year. Brussels remains convinced that before the end of the year the EU will be able to do without two thirds of the 155,000 million cubic meters that it imported from Russia before the invasion of Ukraine.

Join EL PAÍS to follow all the news and read without limits.


Ursula von der Leyen, in the background, during the signing of the agreement with Israel and Egypt, this Wednesday in Cairo.
Ursula von der Leyen, in the background, during the signing of the agreement with Israel and Egypt, this Wednesday in Cairo.SHOKRY HUSSIEN (REUTERS)

No supply cuts are expected, but Germany is in the process of filling its tanks with the aim of reaching maximum capacity in the fall. Both Berlin and Brussels suspect that Gazprom kept storage levels artificially low last winter to fuel the gas crisis and raise prices. The largest warehouse in Germany, and one of the largest in Western Europe, managed by the German subsidiary of Gazprom, remained virtually empty. Now the authorities are taking advantage of the summer and the drop in demand to fill the warehouses, which are currently already at 55%, according to data from this Tuesday from the Federal Network Agency German.

Interrupted deliveries

In recent weeks Gazprom has been cutting off its gas deliveries to several European countries that refuse to pay in the way the Kremlin demands. Since March, Moscow has been demanding payment in rubles for the gas it sells to “hostile countries”, including those of the European Union. First, it cut off the supply of its gas pipelines to Poland and Bulgaria due to the refusal of these countries to change the conditions of their contracts. Later he did the same with Finland and the Netherlands. German companies are employing a system that balances the wishes of the Kremlin with the need not to circumvent sanctions imposed by the European Union. The solution has been to pay in euros into a specially created account at Gazprombank (Russian state-owned entity not sanctioned by the EU) and have the entity itself do the conversion to rubles. Italy also opened an account preventively.

Siemens has confirmed that one of its turbines, used to drive compressors that increase the pressure of the gas, is in Canada for an overhaul. “Due to the sanctions imposed by Canada, it is currently impossible for Siemens Energy to deliver revised gas turbines to the client,” the company assures EL PAÍS. “We have informed the Canadian and German governments and are working on a viable solution,” he adds. Berlin believes that the announced cut “cannot be justified on technical grounds”, because the consequences of this delay should not occur until the autumn and do not explain such a large decrease in the volume of gas. Reducing deliveries to Europe is “a political decision,” Habeck stressed.

Affected by sanctions and European efforts to reduce dependence on Russian gas, Gazprom, the only national gas company authorized to export, revealed on Wednesday that its supply to countries outside the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS, which brings together the ex-Soviet space) has been reduced by 28.9% in the first semester compared to the same period of the previous year. Brussels takes away iron.

The brief statement published by the state company justifies the stoppage of another engine of the Portovaya gas turbine – the compression station near the Russian city of Vyborg, where the gas pipeline begins – because the deadlines for making reviews had expired ” before its general supervision, according to the instructions of Rostejnadzor ―the government agency to control the impact of the industry on the environment―, and also taking into account the technical condition of the engine”.

Europe is trying to unhook itself from Russian gas at a forced pace. After agreeing in April on the Russian coal embargo and decreeing a partial ban on the import of Moscow’s oil two weeks ago, all eyes are already pointing to what is emerging as the next step in the escalation of EU energy sanctions: the gas. Several Member States, especially the Baltics, are already asking for its inclusion in a seventh sanctions package. Germany, which has managed to reduce its dependence from 55% to 35%, maintains that it still cannot do without this hydrocarbon that feeds its powerful industry. According to his calculations, he could not unhook until next year. Meanwhile, it accelerates the construction of regasification plants to receive liquefied natural gas by ship.

Follow all the international information in Facebook Y Twitteror in our weekly newsletter.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button