Russian gas: Europe plunges into the unknown with the temporary shutdown of Nord Stream | War in Ukraine

Russian gas: Europe plunges into the unknown with temporary shutdown of Nord Stream | War in Ukraine

“It is possible that the gas will flow again”, but “it is possible that nothing more will come and we must prepare as always for the worst”, summarizes the German Vice-Chancellor.

A Russian employee at the Portovaya compressor station site, where Nord Stream is filled , during the opening of the gas pipeline. (Archives)

Germany and with it Europe entered a period of great uncertainty on Monday over the continuation of their imports of Russian gas, already greatly reduced in recent weeks and which could soon dry up completely.

The Russian giant Gazprom began maintenance work on the two Nord Stream 1 gas pipelines in the morning, which carry a large quantity of its gas still delivered to Germany as well as to several other Western European countries.

Nord Stream is stopped […] which means that the gas is no longer flowing, the German Ministry of Economics confirmed to AFP on Monday.

This shutdown for 10 days of the two pipes, announced for a long time, was in theory only to be a technical formality. But in the context of the war in Ukraine and the tussle between Moscow and the West over energy, no one can bet on what will happen next.

As a warning, Gazprom cut its gas deliveries to Italy and Austria on Monday by a third and 70% respectively, energy companies OMV and ENI said. Both countries are partly supplied by the TAG pipeline, which passes through Ukraine, but also by the Nord Stream pipeline.

There are many scenarios under which we could be plunged into an emergency situation, German Network Agency Chairman Klaus Müller warned on ZDF television on Monday.

Germany in full gas shock! Germany's most read daily, Bild exclaimed on Monday.

We are facing an unprecedented situation, everything is possible, acknowledged German Vice-Chancellor Robert Habeck over the weekend on public radio.

“It is possible that the gas will flow again, even in greater quantities than before. It is possible that nothing more will come and we must prepare as always for the worst. »

— Robert Habeck, German Vice-Chancellor

Moscow, citing a technical problem, has already reduced gas deliveries by 60% in recent weeks via Nord Stream, a decision denounced as political by Berlin.

The Lubmin gas terminal in Germany is the link between Russian oil and the European gas distribution network.

Berlin therefore worked hard to convince Canada on Saturday to return a turbine intended for Nord Stream 1, which was undergoing maintenance in the country. And this despite protests from Ukraine.

Germany did not want to give Moscow an additional argument to stop its gas supplies. The turbine, once repatriated by its manufacturer Siemens, will then be handed over to Russia, Berlin said on Monday.

Berlin also argues that, for technical reasons, it would be difficult for Gazprom to stop its deliveries via Nord Stream, the gas exploited in the Siberian field being under pressure and not being able to be stored eternally. It's not like a water tap, Mr. Habeck said.

Since the start of the war, Germany has made efforts to reduce its dependence, but it is still significant: 35% of its gas imports come from Russia, compared to 55% before the war. And more than 50% of household heating is still provided by gas.

A lasting shutdown of Nord Stream 1 would not only penalize Europe's largest economy: ordinarily, the gas that arrives in Germany continues to ship to all of Europe.

In France, Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire called on Sunday to quickly get into battle order to deal with the possibility of a total cut in supplies, the most likely option. /p>

A prolonged halt in deliveries would therefore aggravate the energy crisis in which Europe is already struggling, with prices soaring and the fear of shortages this winter.

< p class="e-p">In Germany, the authorities are already thinking about rationing plans, and are calling for savings.

Everything must be done to save gas now, to optimize the heating, discussing with the family, preparing the industries – we are not powerless, hammered Monday Klaus Müller, the head of the federal network agency.

The Chamber of Deputies has already adopted a symbolic savings plan for her on Thursday: no more heating above 20°C in winter and no more hot water in individual offices.

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