Gazprom raises more questions in energy standoff with Europe
BERLIN (AP) — Russian energy giant Gazprom said Monday it would further reduce natural gas flows through a major gas pipeline to Europe to 20% of capacity, citing equipment repairs. The move reinforces fears that Russia could cut off gas as political leverage over the war in Ukraine, just as Europe is trying to beef up storage for the winter.
The Russian state-owned company tweeted that it would reduce “daily throughput” of the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline to Germany to 33 million cubic meters from Wednesday, saying it was shutting down a turbine for repairs. The head of the German network regulator, Klaus Mueller, confirmed that the flow should be cut in half.
Deliveries were at 40% capacity after Nord Stream 1 reopened last week after 10 days of scheduled maintenance. The German government has said it rejects the idea that technical reasons will lead to further gas cuts.
Russian President Vladimir “Putin is playing a treacherous game,” German Economy Minister Robert Habeck told the dpa news agency. “He is trying to weaken the great support for Ukraine and drive a wedge into our society. He does this by stoking uncertainty and driving up prices. We are fighting this with unity and concentrated action. .
Natural gas is used to power industry, generate electricity and heat homes in winter, and concerns are growing over a possible recession if Europe does not save enough gas and rationing is needed to get through the cold months. Energy prices have been skyrocketing for months – soared again after Gazprom’s announcement – fueling inflation that squeezes people’s purchasing power.
The new reduction should come as no surprise, said Simone Tagliapietra, an energy expert at the Bruegel think tank in Brussels.
“Russia is playing a strategic game here. Already weak fluctuating flows are better than a complete shutdown, as it manipulates the market and optimizes the geopolitical impact,” he said.
Russia has cut off or reduced natural gas to a dozen countries in the European Union. The aim is to use less gas now to build storage for the winter, with the EU offering member states to voluntarily reduce consumption by 15% over the next few months. It is also seeking the power to impose mandatory cuts in the 27-nation bloc if there is a risk of severe gas shortages or very high demand.
But Spain and Portugal said they would reject the mandatory cuts, pointing to the lack of energy connections with the rest of Europe and the use of Russian gas well below countries such as Germany and Italy. . Diplomats were scrambling to find a solution guaranteeing EU unity ahead of an emergency meeting on Tuesday.
The new Gazprom cut “should increase the pressure on EU energy ministers to reach a reasonable deal”, Tagliapietra said. “Action on this can no longer be delayed.”
Russia recently accounted for about a third of Germany’s gas supplies. The government said last week that the drop in gas flows confirmed that Germany could not rely on Russian deliveries, announcing that it would increase its gas storage needs and take further steps to conserve supplies.
Gazprom raised questions earlier on Monday over the return of a second turbine that has been at the center of tensions at Nord Stream 1, saying it was unhappy with the documents it received.
Gazprom first reduced gas flow through the pipeline by 60% in mid-June, alleging technical problems with the part its partner Siemens Energy sent to Canada for overhaul and which could not be returned to reason for the penalties.
Canada then authorized delivery of the turbine from a compressor station at the Russian end of the pipeline to Germany, where the German government announced it last week.
The Russian energy company said issues around EU and UK sanctions ‘remain unresolved for Gazprom’, although it is important to deliver the turbine ‘and carry out urgent major repairs of other turbine engines’ for the same station. compression. The company later tweeted that it was “closing another gas turbine engine produced by Siemens” Energy.
Germany claims that all parties have been informed that the original part is not subject to EU sanctions. Siemens Energy said turbine maintenance is a routine measure and that over the past 10 years there have been “no significant complications”, dpa reported.
The company said transport of the turbine had been prepared and could begin immediately and that it had told Gazprom it had all the necessary documents early last week.
“What is missing, however, are the customs documents required for importing into Russia,” Siemens Energy said in a statement, adding that such information could only be provided by the customer.
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