Gas crisis set to worsen after Europe runs out of winter stocks

  • European gas storage tanks about 90% full
  • Gazprom resumes exports to Italy
  • The Kremlin wants to participate in the investigation of the Nord Stream leaks
  • EU divided over gas price cap proposals

HELSINKI/BRUSSELS, Oct 5 (Reuters) – Europe could face an even more acute energy crisis next year after emptying its natural gas reservoirs to weather this winter’s cold, the head of the EU said on Wednesday. Energy Agency, as the EU looks for ways to ease the crisis.

European countries have filled their storage tanks to around 90% capacity after Russia cut gas supplies in response to Western sanctions imposed following its invasion of Ukraine.

Gas prices, which surged in the months following the invasion in February, have retreated. But that could be short-lived as countries compete to buy liquefied natural gas (LNG) and other alternatives to Russian pipeline deliveries.

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To help with the pain, the European Union is considering a cap on gas prices, an issue that has divided the 27-nation bloc as some countries fear it will make it harder to secure supplies.

“With gas storages almost at 90%, Europe will survive next winter with only a few bruises as long as there are no political or technical surprises,” said Fatih Birol, executive director of the AIE based in Paris.

The real challenges facing Europe, which has historically depended on Russia for around 40% of its natural gas, will begin in February or March when storage will need to be replenished after high winter demand has depleted them by 25%-30%.

“This winter is difficult, but next winter could also be very difficult,” Birol told reporters in Finland.

European governments have taken action to protect consumers from the impact of rising prices and on Wednesday Germany announced it would subsidize electricity bills next year by paying just under €13 billion. euros ($12.8 billion) for user fees charged by the four high-voltage transmission networks. companies (GRT).

Charges are part of electricity bills and represent around 10% of overall costs for retail customers and a third for industrial companies in sectors such as steel or chemicals.

Berlin’s intervention stabilizes charges, which otherwise would have tripled given soaring wholesale electricity prices and increased operational costs for TSOs, Germany’s Minister of Energy said. Economics, Robert Habeck.

Until war in Ukraine broke out in late February, the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline under the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany was one of Western Europe’s main sources of gas.

Nord Stream 1 comprises two separate lines, as does Nord Stream 2, which was filled with gas but was never allowed to deliver supplies to Europe because Germany suspended permission just before Russia n invaded Ukraine on February 24.

Three of the four lines were disabled in what the West and Russia say was sabotage causing huge leaks and Danish authorities said the fourth was depressurized on Tuesday.


President Vladimir Putin on Friday implicated the United States and its allies, allegations rejected by Washington. Russia has condemned what it called “stupid” theories in the West that it itself sabotaged pipelines in explosions last week.

The Kremlin said on Wednesday that Russia must be part of the investigation into the incidents, while one of Putin’s allies said he remembered attacks backed by the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency on oil infrastructure in the United States. Nicaragua in 1983.

European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen, for her part, said EU countries must strengthen the protection of their critical infrastructure by carrying out stress tests and using satellite surveillance to detect potential threats. .

She was speaking in the European Parliament ahead of a meeting of leaders from the 27 EU countries on Friday in Prague where they will discuss the EU’s price cap plan.

The details have not yet been defined, but the idea is supported by the majority of countries who see it as a way to fight inflation. It has, however, faced opposition from Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands who fear it will be more difficult to secure supplies.

Von der Leyen said in his speech that countries should also start jointly buying gas to prevent EU member states from bidding against each other on world markets and pushing prices even higher. .

Earlier tensions in the gas market had eased when Russian energy company Gazprom (GAZP.MM) resumed gas exports to Italy via Austria on Wednesday after resolving a safeguards issue that had led to the suspension of flows over the weekend.

European leaders and Moscow say they cannot rule out sabotage.  Map of Nord Stream pipelines and locations of reported leaks
European leaders and Moscow say they cannot rule out sabotage. Map of Nord Stream pipelines and locations of reported leaks

However, Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said on Wednesday that Russia may cut oil production to offset the negative effects of Western-imposed price caps on Moscow’s actions in Ukraine.

The price cap plan agreed by the rich countries of the Group of Seven calls on participating countries to deny insurance, financing, brokerage, navigation and other services to oil cargoes whose price exceeds a price cap still to be determine on crude oil and petroleum products.

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Reports from Reuters offices; Written by Barbara Lewis and Alexander Smith; Editing by Edmund Blair, Jane Merriman and Emelia Sithole-Matarise

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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