Saturday, November 27

Crisis in the energy market: Gazprom storage facilities unusually empty

Status: October 27, 2021 5:31 p.m.

According to experts, natural gas storage facilities in Europe under the control of the Russian Gazprom Group are currently noticeably emptied. Germany is particularly affected by this. Could Moscow deliver more?

While natural gas prices are racing from record to record, the storage facilities of the Russian monopoly Gazprom in Europe are currently unusually empty. This is shown by the latest industry data. “The greatest deficits are in Gazprom’s facilities in Germany and Austria,” Domenicantonio De Giorgio, associate professor of finance at the Sacro Cuore University in Milan, told the Financial Times.

De Giorgio analyzed data from Gas Infrastructure Europe (GIE), an industry association. The expert found that in countries where Gazprom does not have any gas storage facilities – such as France and Italy – the systems are well filled, at a level that is almost normal for this time of the year. The storage facilities in the facilities owned or controlled by the Russian company are the least full.

“Putin and Gazprom keep saying that they are all fulfilling their long-term contracts with customers,” said de Giorgio. “The data shows that this is not the case.” Without the facilities controlled by Gazprom, European gas storage facilities are roughly as full as the average for the past five years – between 85 and 95 percent. If you include Gazprom, the fill level is only 75 percent. According to the “Financial Times”, Gazprom has an influence on almost a third of all gas storage facilities in Germany, Austria and the Netherlands.

Natural gas storage facilities in Lower Saxony are barely full

Europe’s largest natural gas storage facility in Rehden in Lower Saxony (Diepholz district) is currently only just under ten percent full. A Gazprom spokesman said at the end of September Edthat the Gazprom subsidiary Astora operates the storage facility but has no influence on what customers store or outsource there. The group thus rejected any responsibility for the situation.

Last year, the storage facility in Rehden was still around 87 percent full at this time, said Sebastian Bleschke from the Natural Gas Storage Initiative, which brings together the large storage companies. According to Bleschke, the smaller storage facility in Jemgum in East Frisia is also less full than in the previous year. Currently it is just under 64 percent, in 2020 it was 92 percent at this time. The Haidach storage facility in Austria, also operated by Gazprom and one of the largest underground storage facilities in Central Europe, is only 20 percent full.

Russia urges Nord Stream 2 to go into operation

Critics accuse Gazprom of helping to drive up European energy prices with its reduced supply. Chancellor Angela Merkel announced last week to the heads of state and government of the EU that Russia had undertaken to feed more natural gas into its storage facilities, according to the Financial Times, citing diplomats. So far, however, there is little evidence of increasing deliveries.

Just last week, Gazprom refused to book additional pipeline capacities, for example through Ukraine, in order to increase deliveries to Europe in the coming month. Critics accuse Russia of wanting to exert pressure on the German government by means of an artificial shortage so that the controversial Baltic Sea pipeline Nord Stream 2 is granted operating license. Against this, Annalena Baerbock, head of the Greens, recently spoke out. According to EU law, the permit may not be granted because the pipeline operator is not allowed to pass the gas at the same time.

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