By GEIR MOULSON – Associated Press
BERLIN (AP) — Russia’s Gazprom announced a reduction in natural gas flows through a key European pipeline for the second day in a row on Wednesday, creating further energy turbulence for Europe as it tries to reduce its heavy use of oil. and Russian natural gas in the midst of the war in Ukraine.
The state-owned energy giant said on Twitter that deliveries through the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline to Germany would be reduced again on Thursday, bringing the overall reduction through the undersea gas pipeline to 60%.
The fall in shipments of gas used to fuel industry and generate electricity would amount to some 16 billion cubic meters by the end of the year, or about 10% of total gas imports from the EU. European Union from Russia, according to energy policy expert Simone Tagliapietra. at the think tank Bruegel in Brussels.
The new cut came a day after Gazprom announced it would cut flows by 40% after wartime Canadian sanctions prevented German partner Siemens Energy from delivering overhauled equipment. He blamed the same problem for the further reduction.
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But German Vice-Chancellor Robert Habeck said on Wednesday Gazprom’s initial decision appeared to be political rather than the result of technical issues. He said the new developments “clearly show that the Russian side’s explanation is just an excuse.”
“Obviously the strategy is to disrupt people and drive up prices,” Habeck said.
Gazprom also told Italian gas giant Eni it would cut gas through another pipeline by around 15% on Wednesday. The reason for the reduction was not specified and the Italian company said it was monitoring the situation.
The reduction in flows to two of Europe’s largest importers of Russian natural gas follows the previous halt in gas supplies from Russia to Bulgaria, Poland, Finland, the Netherlands and Denmark.
Europe is scrambling to reduce its dependence on Russian energy as the war worsens rising oil and gas prices that are fueling record inflation. Gas demand plummeted after the end of the winter heating season, but European utilities are racing to fill storage before next winter with high prices and uncertain supplies.
As gas storage fills up nicely, the cuts and curtailments add up to an explosion at a liquefied natural gas terminal in Texas whose exports were largely destined for Europe, adding further pressure to the tight market natural gas, said energy expert Tagliapietra. He urged Europe “not to be complacent and to urgently step up coordination” so that the continent is “prepared for a possibly difficult winter”.
Tagliapietra said the Kremlin was pursuing several goals in order to undermine European unity and support sanctions against Russia.
One was short-term market manipulation to drive up gas prices, creating more stress on Europe and more revenue for Russia. Another objective, after the cuts to small countries, “is to remind large countries that gas should not be taken for granted”.
“Russia never acts at the general level. He always targets individual countries, one by one, always to play this divide-and-conquer strategy from the start,” Tagliapietra said. “It’s a strategic game, it’s not random.
Siemens Energy said a gas turbine that powers a compressor station on the Nord Stream 1 pipeline has been in service for more than 10 years and was transported to Montreal for a scheduled overhaul. But because of sanctions imposed by Canada, the company was unable to return the equipment to Gazprom.
Habeck, who is also Germany’s economics minister and responsible for energy, told reporters in Berlin that he had established with the EU’s Executive Commission that maintenance of Siemens compressor stations on the pipeline n was not subject to EU sanctions.
He said officials are in contact with Canada to verify what is possible under Ottawa’s sanctions. But he added that, as far as the German authorities know, the first “relevant” maintenance session is not scheduled before the fall, and because there are several such installations, this would not explain a reduction of 40%.
“So I also feel like what happened yesterday is a political decision, not a technically justifiable decision,” Habeck said. “What effect this will have on the European and German gas market, we will have to wait and see. In general, suppliers have always been able to source gas from other sources.
He said there was no supply problem in Germany, which gets about 35% of its natural gas from Russia, and should be able to continue filling its reserves. Habeck said the missing gas can be obtained on the market but the price will be higher.
The EU has presented plans to reduce its dependence on Russian gas by two thirds by the end of the year. Economists say a complete shutdown would deal a severe blow to the economy, consumers and gas-intensive industries. The 27-nation bloc is already reeling from high inflation this year.
“If you feel like all your homework is done and everything is going well, you are wrong,” Habeck said. ” It’s not over yet. It may be just the beginning… to make us independent of fossil fuels and Russian fossil energy must be advanced at high pressure.
AP reporter Nicole Winfield in Rome contributed.
Follow AP coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine
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