By Christoph Steitz and Thomas Escritt
FRANKFURT/BERLIN (Reuters) – Russia will cut off natural gas supplies to Europe for three days at the end of the month through its main gas pipeline in the region, national energy giant Gazprom GAZP.MM said on Friday. , putting pressure on the region as it seeks to refuel ahead of winter.
The unscheduled maintenance of the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline, which runs under the Baltic Sea to Germany, is deepening the energy impasse between Moscow and Brussels, which has already contributed to rising inflation in the region and increasing the risk of rationing and recession.
Gazprom said the shutdown was due to the only remaining compressor in the pipeline requiring maintenance. Gas flows via other pipeline routes have also declined since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, during which Moscow called for a “special military operation”.
The move will cause further disruption, especially for Germany, which relies heavily on deliveries from Moscow to fuel its industry. The European Union has accused Russia of using energy as a weapon. Moscow denied the accusation and blamed the sanctions for the drop in exports.
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“We are monitoring the situation closely with the Federal Network Agency,” said a spokesman for the German economy ministry. The Biden administration did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The shutdown, which will run from August 31 to September 31. 2, follows a 10-day maintenance hiatus in July and raised concerns that Russia could resume supplies, which have been cut since mid-June.
Ukraine’s gas transmission system operator said it and the Polish pipeline network have the capacity to compensate for the Nord Stream shutdown and allow Russian gas to reach Europe.
Germany had to give Uniper UN01.DE – its largest importer of Russian gas and the biggest victim of Europe’s energy crisis to date – a 15 billion euro ($15.1 billion) bailout after that Russia has drastically reduced its flows, forcing it to buy gas elsewhere at much higher prices.
Germany’s wider economic impact was highlighted Friday in producer price data, which in July saw its biggest increases on record, both year-on-year and month-to-month as energy costs soar.
The Nord Stream gas pipeline was already operating at just a fifth of its capacity, fueling fears that Russia could completely shut down flows ahead of the winter heating season and make it harder to fill storage facilities.
Before Gazprom announced the shutdown, European TRNLTTFMc1 gas prices remained near five-month highs, while US NGc1 gas prices reversed course and stabilized 1.2% after the news.
Germany has made targeted efforts to fill its storage facilities to prepare for winter with levels standing at 78% as of August 17, slightly higher than the roughly 76% for the European Union as a whole.
Once maintenance is complete, and “in the absence of technical malfunctions”, flows of 33 million cubic meters (mcm) per day – in line with current volumes – will resume, Gazprom said.
The restart volume would represent only 20% of Nord Stream’s total capacity of 167 million cc per day.
Gazprom said maintenance work on the remaining Trent 60 gas compressor station would be carried out in conjunction with Siemens Energy ENR1n.DE. The Russian firm has previously blamed faulty or delayed equipment for the drop in streams. Germany says it’s a pretext to damage its economy.
Siemens, which is in charge of maintaining the Nord Stream 1 turbines, declined to comment.
One of the Nord Stream 1 turbines is stuck in Germany after undergoing maintenance in Canada. Germany has said it could be transported, but Moscow continues to say sanctions have prevented the equipment from being returned to Russia.
Earlier, senior German politicians rejected suggestions that gas shortages could be eased by allowing the suspended Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to go into operation, which the Kremlin has suggested as a solution.
“I strongly suggest that we spare ourselves the humiliation of always asking (Russian President Vladimir) Putin for something that we won’t get,” said Kevin Kuehnert, number two of Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democrats.
“Dependence on him must end once and for all,” he added in an interview with t-online.
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(Reporting by Christoph Steitz and Thomas Escritt; Editing by Kirsten Donovan, David Holmes and Marguerita Choy)
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