Tension Between Russia and Germany as Russian Gazprom keeps the gas pipeline to Germany blocked
Russian energy giant Gazprom said on Friday it is unable to resume natural gas supplies through a key pipeline to Germany for the time being as urgent maintenance work is needed just hours before supplies resume.
Russia’s state-owned energy company shut down the Nord Stream 1 pipeline on Wednesday for allegedly three days of work.
Gazprom said in a social media post Friday night that it had identified “flaws” in a turbine and added that the pipeline would not work unless they were removed.
It was the latest development in a saga in which Gazprom has cited technical problems as the reason for reducing gas flow through Nord Stream 1, statements that German officials have dismissed as a cover for a political power play in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine .
Gazprom said it found oil leaks from four turbines at the Portovaya compressor station at the Russian end of the pipeline, including the only operational one trouble-free operation of the gas turbine engine.
“In this regard, it is necessary to take appropriate measures and stop further operation of the gas compression plant in connection with the serious (safety) violations that have been identified,” the company said.
Gazprom began halting deliveries via Nord Stream 1 in mid-June, blaming delays in the delivery of a turbine that had been shipped to Canada for repairs.
Canada has since allowed the turbine to be shipped to Germany, which has said there is nothing stopping it from being shipped to Russia, except that Russia says it wants the part.
In the past few weeks, Nord Stream 1 has only been running at 20% capacity. Russia, which accounted for just over a third of the gas deliveries from Germany before the cuts began, has also cut gas flows to other European countries that have sided with Ukraine in the war.
Natural gas is used to power industry, heat homes and offices, and generate electricity. Since Russia invaded Ukraine, increasing the reserve quantity has been a key concern of the German government to avoid industrial rationing when demand rises in winter.
Germany’s storage facilities are now more than 84% full.
The head of Germany’s grid regulator, Klaus Müller, tweeted that Russia’s decision to shut down Nord Stream 1 for now increases the importance of the new
liquefied natural gas terminals that Germany plans to install. Operation this winter, gas storage and “significant need to save on gas”.
It is “good that Germany is now better prepared, but now it depends on everyone,” added Müller.
The European Union has just reached its target of filling its gas storage facilities to 80% by November 1st, despite supply cuts from Russia.
European utilities are struggling to find additional supplies in the summer months to prepare for winter heating needs, and are buying expensive LNG that arrives by ship, while additional supplies are being delivered by pipeline since Norway and Azerbaijan.
It has fallen somewhat as storage has increased, but a full cut could pose serious difficulties for Europe, analysts say.