Early Thursday, Europeans were waiting for news about whether Russian energy giant Gazprom had resumed natural gas flows through a key pipeline that typically supplies more than a third of Germany’s needs, as well as the main gas supplies to several of its European partners.
The Nord Stream 1 pipeline has been offline since July 11 for a previously scheduled annual maintenance. It was supposed to resume operations on Thursday, but after weeks of skirmishes between Russia and Europe, fears have risen among European Union officials that the pipeline will not run longer as punishment for opposing Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. .
This uncertainty is another reminder that Germany and much of Europe are dependent on Russian energy, a relationship that has come to haunt officials who say Moscow is using its oil and gas to influence decision making.
Gazprom has cut pipeline flows by 60 percent since mid-June. Berlin announces “gas crisis” and take steps to encourage fuel economy. The Russians blamed the loss of performance on the lack of a turbine in one of the six compressors that maintain the pressure needed to pump gas through the pipeline for 1,222 kilometers, or 760 miles.
The turbine was sent to Canada for repairs, where it was manufactured by a company now owned by the German firm Siemens Energy. But Canadian sanctions aimed at punishing Russia for its invasion of Ukraine prevented her return.
Better Understand the Russo-Ukrainian War
Earlier this month, after lobbying by the German government, Canadian officials agreed grant Siemens Energy a “time-limited and revocable authorization” to return the turbine to Germany; from there, officials in Berlin announced that he would be sent to Russia.
European Union leaders said they predict Russia will not resume gas supplies. “We need to prepare for a potential total shutdown of Russian gas supplies, and this is a likely scenario,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Wednesday.
But this week Russia gave the strongest signal that it would resume gas supplies after a maintenance period, albeit in limited quantities. Speaking to reporters late Tuesday evening at Tehran after meeting with the leaders of Iran and TurkeyRussian President Vladimir V. Putin warned that there were still turbines in need of repair, and that with others going offline, Gazprom would send only “half the planned volume” through the Nord Stream pipeline.
German and European officials dismissed Gazprom’s argument that the shutdowns were linked to the turbine and accused the Russians of seeking to hurt the Western economy by shutting off access to natural gas. The price of natural gas in Europe more than quadrupled compared to the same period last year.
Europe must immediately drastically cut natural gas consumption – by a total of 15 percent by spring – to avert a major crisis as Russia cuts gas exports, the European Union’s executive said Wednesday, urging people to make heavy sacrifices. from the richest group of countries in the world.
“Russia is blackmailing us,” she said. said von der Leyen, presenting the EU’s plan to reduce gas consumption. “Russia uses energy as a weapon.”
Analysts say the Russian leader could benefit from keeping a limited flow of natural gas, which would keep Europeans in a prolonged state of uncertainty and on the brink of panic. Russia has already cut off gas supplies through other major pipelines to Europe that run through Poland and Ukraine.
But other analysts see the tug-of-war over the turbines as Russia’s attempt to maintain the pipeline despite sanctions.
“I think this whole turbine epic means that Russia is actually trying to protect its flows to Europe, not undermine them, as it tries to establish a sanctions-resistant repair and maintenance regime,” said Katya Yafimava, senior fellow Oxford Institute for Energy Studies.