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The joint Russian-European Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline has been completed and fully able to start pumping gas from Russia to Germany along the bottom of the Baltic Sea. However, the dual pipeline system awaits in vain the approval of German and European regulators, who have suicidally threatened to put off certification until well into next year.
Germany’s underground gas storage reserves have plummeted to well below 60 per cent, a historically low level for the start of winter, Sebastian Bleschke, managing director of INES, the association of German gas storage system operators, has warned.
‘Since the actual winter is still ahead, the disastrously low reserves should certainly be handled carefully,’ Bleschke said, speaking to Handelsblatt in an interview published Thursday. ‘If withdrawal from the reserves continues at its current pace, Germany will be running on empty in February,’ the official added.
Berlin has sought to partially offset potential shortages by seeking new supply contracts for much more expensive and anyway inadequate LNG supplies.
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As Europe is gripped in a frigid weather pattern with temperatures dipping to – 20C or – 30C in places other European nations have also reported unusually low reserves of natural gas in their underground gas storage facilities in recent months, with shortages causing a dramatic spike in spot prices on the open market, and efforts by officials and specialists to attribute scarcity to factors ranging from alleged Russian malevolence to poor planning of the region’s energy balance.
Russian gas giant Gazprom has expressed concern for Europeans over the low supply levels at European countries’ underground gas storage facilities, calculating last week that almost a quarter of the volume of fuel pumped into the reserves has already been pumped out again.
Washington DC has blamed Russia for the shortages, alleging that Gazprom was under utilising its supply capabilities. Moscow dismissed the claims, pointing to years of US efforts to sabotage the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which could have been operational by now and pumping as much as 55 billion cubic meters of additional gas per year to Germany had it not been for Washington’s sanctions.
Russia throws sinking Europe a lifeline which is refused: In October, Russian President Vladimir Putting emphasized that Russia has made good on all its supply commitments to European gas customers, and was prepared to sign new contracts on the supply of additional gas to the region.
Putin blamed the current supply crunch on a range of factors, including EU policymakers’ preference for short-term contracts, the unusually cold winter and spring of 2020-2021, excessive dependence on unproven alternative forms of energy, cutthroat competition for gas with a roaring Asian market, and a bizarre failure by many European states to stock up on gas in the summer months.
Despite the danger of shortages in Germany and other European markets, German regulators continue to hold up the certification of Nord Stream 2, which was completed and filled with gas in the fall but remains unable to begin operating without regulatory approval. On Thursday, Bloomberg reported, citing informed sources, that a decision on Nord Stream 2’s certification would not be made in the first half of 2022, meaning the pipeline will not be used to increase supplies or ease price pressure in the coming months.
Five Western European energy companies, including Austria’s OMV, Germany’s Uniper and Wintershall, France’s Engie and Royal Dutch Shell are partnered with Russia’s Gazprom on Nord Stream 2.
Construction of the pipeline network was on the brink of completion in late 2019 before the US slapped sanctions on the project, with Western contractors threatened with crushing and potentially fatal restrictions pulling out. Washington’s decision resulted in the project’s completion being delayed by over a year. In July, the Biden administration reached an agreement with Germany to drop restrictions against the project, but threatened new penalties on the basis of Russia’s ‘behaviour.’
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Categories: Current Events