The European Union and Russia have next Thursday, July 21, underlined in red the day Moscow will be forced to move a piece in their gas game. The annual review of the Nord Stream gas pipeline, the passage of a third of Russian gas imported by the community bloc, ends on that date, and Brussels fears the Kremlin will justify halting its supplies indefinitely. However, the Reuters agency was categorical and assured that it will return to normal operations this Thursday after consulting two sources familiar with managing the infrastructure.
Maintenance work began on July 11th. A planned stop, but full of uncertainties after the boycotts of the past few months as a result of the offensive against Ukraine and the sanctions imposed for it. EU budget commissioner Johannes Hann warned on Tuesday that the community bloc has foreseen the worst-case scenario of all. “We’re working on the premise that it won’t work again, and in that case certain additional measures need to be taken,” he said.
The European Union is preparing for the winter and its gas reserves already exceed 64.4% of its total capacity, according to Gas Infrastructure Europe. To that end, it has compensated for the drop in Russian imports by buying expensive liquefied natural gas and gradually replacing it with gas from other countries, from Norway to North Africa and the Middle East. All this at a high cost: the spot price of this hydrocarbon exceeds $ 1,600 per thousand cubic meters, several times more than a year ago.
The International Energy Agency warned on Monday that the European Union must make even greater efforts to cut electricity consumption as “the situation is particularly dangerous being at the epicenter of the turbulence in the energy market,” as it stressed. its director, Fatih Birol.
The manager warns that reserves should hit 90% in October. The agency recalled that five months before the attacks began, it had warned that Russia had reduced “a significant amount of gas arriving in Europe,” although it believed that there had been “significant progress” in import substitution If so, warns that the Kremlin’s next steps could put the bloc “in a really precarious situation.” For this reason, he has called for awareness-raising campaigns to be launched so that European citizens understand the crisis the continent is facing, and he has called for households and businesses to reduce electricity consumption.
turn the heat down
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“Reducing heating power in Europe by a few degrees can save the same amount of natural gas that Nord Stream supplies in winter,” Birol said.
The closure of the pipeline would be a major setback for fuel tank refilling. Gazprom cut shipments by 40% in mid-June after Canada blocked a turbine engine that Siemens was repairing at one of its plants. The North American country had included Gazprom on its sanctions list for the Kremlin attack and prevented the return of the missing part of the Portovaya pumping station to Europe.
Thus began a legal battle in which the Russian monopoly sought legal guarantees not to pay compensation for the cut. Gazprom sent notifications to three European companies, including Germany’s RWE and Uniper, where it assured that since June 14 it had reduced supplies due to “force majeure”.
In response to pressure from Germany, the Canadian government agreed in early July to return the engine and remove Gazprom from the list of sanctions against Russia. The North American country’s natural resources minister, Jonathan Wilkinson, announced a “revocable and temporary” permit for Gazprom to help Europe in its quest for affordable energy “as it continues its transition away from oil and gas. Russians”.
Despite the fact that these commitments were made public, Gazprom demanded that this commitment should be in writing and published a statement on its Telegram channel last Wednesday: “Under these circumstances, it is not possible to draw an objective conclusion about future developments situation and guarantee the safe operation of the Portovaya compression station,” he stressed.
The Nord Stream chapter joins other confrontations where the Kremlin has used energy as a negotiating weapon. As a result of the sanctions against the Russian financial system, President Vladimir Putin decreed that Gazprom should collect its bills in rubles, and his government developed a mechanism whereby importing companies must open a special account with the gas company’s bank subsidiary in order to make payments there in dollars and euros and acts as an intermediary to send the money to the gas company. Poland, Bulgaria and Finland have opposed this measure, believing that in the event of a dispute Gazprom could evade all responsibility by not shipping the gas it has paid for.
Another land immersed gas war it is Ukraine, through whose territory another part of Russian supplies to the European Union flows, and which was forced to close a section because the areas controlled by Moscow participated in the supplies it had to guarantee.
Ukraine on Tuesday formalized its accession to the International Energy Agency as an associated country. “In these challenging times due to the Russian invasion, which no one provoked, we continue to strengthen this relationship to help with the significant reconstruction that Ukraine needs and build a new energy future there,” the director said in a further statement on Tuesday .