Russia’s state-owned gas producer Gazprom shuts down the Nord Stream pipeline to Europe for temporary maintenance. File Photo by Igor Golovniov/Shutterstock
July 11 (BP) — Russia shut down Europe’s largest gas pipeline, Nord Stream 1, for annual maintenance on Monday, but some are concern that the 10-day closure could be extended for “political reasons” as the continent scrambles to store energy supplies for the winter.
Nord Stream 1, which carries about 55 billion cubic meters of fuel every year under the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany, will remain shut down until July 21 to “test mechanical and automated systems,” according to Russian gas company Gazprom.
But the shutdown has a number of European Union countries worried that the closure will extend beyond its 10-day maintenance timeline as much of Europe rebukes Russia’s war in Ukraine.
“We cannot rule out the possibility that gas transport will not be resumed afterwards for political reasons,” Klaus Mueller, Head of Germany’s energy regulator told CNBC last week.
A number of European countries have been filling underground storage with natural gas supplies to make sure there is enough fuel for the winter. Germany, Italy, Austria and the Netherlands are prepared to use coal-fired plants to make up for any new gas shortages, their leaders have said.
If supply “doesn’t come back after maintenance because President Putin plays games or wants to hit Europe while it hurts, then the plan to fill up gas storage by the end of the summer will probably not work,” Henning Gloystein, director of energy, climate and resources at Eurasia Group told CNBC.
French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire told a business conference in southern France a total cutoff is “the most likely scenario.”
France relies on Russia for 17% of its fuel, while Germany gets 35% of its energy supplies from Russia, numbers that declined after the Kremlin cut its output last month over a maintenance issue. Germany is bracing for the worst as new maintenance begins and has warned consumers to start conserving.
Over the weekend, Germany convinced Canada to return a Siemens Energy turbine, needed for the Nord Stream pipeline in time for this week’s maintenance, over concerns Russia could use that as an excuse to delay gas flows. The Ukrainian government criticized the move calling it “energy blackmail.”
“This dangerous precedent violates international solidarity, goes against the principle of the rule of law and will have only one consequence,” Ukraine’s foreign and energy ministries said in a statement. “It will strengthen Moscow’s sense of impunity.”