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UKRAINE

Russia halts gas supplies to Germany

Russia has halted gas deliveries to Germany via a key pipeline for an indefinite period after saying Friday it had found problems in a key piece of equipment, a development that will worsen Europe's energy crisis.

Nord Stream 1 pipeline
Part of the Nord Stream 1 pipeline in Mecklenburg Western-Pomerania. Photo: Bildnachweis picture alliance/dpa | Jens Büttner

Russian gas giant Gazprom said Friday that the Nord Stream pipeline due to reopen at the weekend would remain shut until a turbine is repaired.

In a statement, Gazprom indicated it had discovered “oil leaks” in a turbine during a planned three-day maintenance operation.

Gazprom added that “until it is repaired… the transport of gas via Nord Stream is completely suspended”.

Resumption of deliveries via the pipeline which runs from near St Petersburg to Germany under the Baltic Sea, had been due to resume on
Saturday.

READ ALSO: Germany plans more LNG capacity as Russian gas dwindles

Gazprom said it had discovered the problems while carrying out maintenance with representatives of Siemens, which manufactured the turbine in a compressor station that pushes gas through the pipeline.

On its Telegram page it published a picture of cables covered in a brown liquid.

Earlier in the day, the Kremlin warned the future operation of the Nord Stream pipeline, one of Gazprom’s major supply routes, was at risk due to a lack of spare parts.

“There are no technical reserves, only one turbine is working,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

“So the reliability of the operation, of the whole system, is at risk,” he said, adding that it was “not through the fault” of Russian energy giant Gazprom.

The turbine-maker Siemens Energy said in a statement that the oil leaks blamed by Gazprom was “not a technical reason for stopping operation”.

“Such leakages do not usually affect the operation of a turbine and can be sealed on site,” it said, adding that it was “not contracted for maintenance work”.

Following the imposition of economic sanctions over the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine, Russia has reduced or halted supplies to different European nations, causing energy prices to soar.

The Kremlin has blamed the reduction of supplies via Nord Stream on European sanctions which it says have blocked the return of a Siemens turbine that had been undergoing repairs in Canada.

Germany, which is where the turbine is located now, has said Moscow is blocking the return of the critical piece of equipment.

Berlin has previously accused Moscow of using energy as a weapon.

The announcement by Gazprom comes the same day as the G7 nations said they would work to quickly implement a price cap on Russian oil exports, a move which would starve the Kremlin of critical revenue for its war effort.

Gazprom also announced the suspension of gas supplies to France’s main provider Engie from Thursday after it failed to pay for all deliveries made in July.

READ ALSO: ‘It’s going to be a bleak winter’: How people in Germany are coping with the energy crisis

‘Much better position’

As winter approaches, European nations have been seeking to completely fill their gas reserves, secure alternative supplies, and put into place plans to reduce consumption.

A long-term halt to Russian gas supplies would complicate efforts by some nations to avoid shortages and rationing, however.

Germany said Friday its gas supplies were secure despite the halt to deliveries via Nord Stream.

“The situation on the gas market is tense, but security of supply is guaranteed,” a spokeswoman for the economy ministry said in a statement.

The spokeswoman did not comment on the “substance” of Gazprom’s announcement earlier Friday but said Germany had “already seen Russia’s unreliability in the past few weeks”.

German officials have in recent times struck a more positive tone about the coming winter.

Before the latest shutdown, Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Germany was now “in a much better position” in terms of energy security, having achieved its gas storage targets far sooner than expected.

Europe as a whole has also been pushing ahead with filling its gas storage tanks, while fears over throttled supplies have driven companies to slash their energy usage.

Germany’s industry consumed 21.3 percent less gas in July than the average for the month from 2018 to 2021, said the Federal Network Agency.

Agency chief Klaus Mueller has said such pre-emptive action “could save Germany from a gas emergency this winter”.

Europe as a bloc meanwhile has been preparing to take emergency action to reform the electricity market in order to bring galloping prices under control.

Fear of shortages of natural gas has driven futures contracts for electricity in France and Germany to record levels.

European consumers are also bracing for huge power bills as utilities pass on their higher energy costs.

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ENERGY

Germany and Denmark investigate Russian pipeline pressure drop

Germany said Monday it was investigating an unexplained pressure drop in the inactive Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia, which was blocked by Berlin in the run-up to the invasion of Ukraine.

Germany and Denmark investigate Russian pipeline pressure drop

The operator said it was “relatively likely that there’s a leak” in the underwater pipeline, which runs beneath the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany.

Authorities had spotted a “large bubble field near Bornholm”, a Danish island in the Baltic, Nord Stream 2 spokesman Ulrich Lissek told AFP.

“The pipeline was never in use, just prepared for technical operation, and therefore filled with gas,” he said.

There was, however, “no clarity” over the cause of the pressure drop in the underwater link, or whether the issue was related to a section of the pipe in “German sovereign waters”, a spokeswoman for the German economy ministry said.

Officials were working to “clarify the situation,” the spokeswoman said, adding that Danish authorities had been alerted to the issue.

The pipeline, which runs parallel to Nord Stream 1 and was intended to roughly double the capacity for undersea gas imports from Russia, was blocked by Berlin in the days before the invasion of Ukraine. Germany, which was highly dependent on imports of fossil fuels from Russia to meet its energy needs, has since come under acute stress as Moscow has dwindled supplies.

Russian energy giant Gazprom progressively reduced the volumes of gas being delivered via the Nord Stream 1 until it shut the pipeline completely at the end of August, blaming Western sanctions for the delay of necessary repairs to the pipeline.

READ ALSO: Germany’s gas storage facilities ‘over 90 percent full’

Germany has rebuffed Gazprom’s technical explanation for the cut, instead accusing Moscow of wielding energy as a weapon amid tensions over the Ukraine war.

Kremlin representatives have previously suggested that the Nord Stream 2 pipeline should be allowed to go into operation.

It was “technically possible” to continue deliveries, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in August.

Former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who signed off on the first Nord Stream pipeline in his final days in office, has also called on Berlin to reconsider its position on the blocked second link.

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