Gazprom postponed its September 3 deadline to restore flows via a crucial gas supply route to Europe, citing an oil leakage in the Nord Stream 1 pipeline it discovered during maintenance works.
The company shut down the pipeline on August 31 for what was supposed to be a three-day maintenance. However, it said in a social media post on September 2 that it identified “malfunctions” of a turbine.
Many interpreted this move as a geopolitical message to countries supporting Ukraine.
“Gas transmission via the Nord Stream pipeline has been fully shut down until the operational defects in the equipment are eliminated,” the company said in a statement, noticeably avoiding mention of when flows are expected to resume.
This move compounded Europe’s difficulties in securing enough fuel for the approaching cold winter months as Nord Stream 1 provides the much-needed gas supplies to Germany and much of other European nations.
European officials accuse Russia of using energy as weapon
European officials accused Russia of using energy as a weapon. In 2021, Russia supplied 40 percent of the European Union’s (EU) gas – but in recent weeks, the country reduced flow through Nord Stream 1 to only 20 percent capacity.
Michael Roth, chair of the German parliamentary foreign affairs committee, said cutting off supplies is part of Russia’s “psychological war” against other countries.
Markus Soeder, premier of the state of Bavaria, said they’re in a difficult position. “Putin is playing a game with Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2. I think it’s a kind of game. Our problem right now is that we are not in a position to adequately respond to this game,” he said.
Siemens Energy, which also regularly maintains Nord Stream 1 turbines, said the leak Gazprom said it found was no reason to halt gas supplies, as the repair fell within the scope of its maintenance works.
“Such leaks do not normally affect the operation of a turbine and can be sealed on site,” the company said in a statement, adding that this type of leak has not led to a shutdown in operations in the past.
While it’s not currently contracted to work on the specific maintenance issue, Siemens said it pointed out several times that there are other turbines available at the Portovaya compressor station for Nord Stream 1 to operate.
Wholesale gas prices have soared 400 percent since August 2021, hitting European consumers and industries hard as demands surged after the pandemic lockdowns have been lifted. It worsened after Russia invaded Ukraine in February. (Related: Russia’s Gazprom HALTS gas flows to Poland and Germany; Europe in PANIC as rolling blackouts are inevitable unless Europe finds RUBLES.)
Ursula von der Leyen, chief of the European Commission, previously suggested imposing a price restriction on Russian pipeline gas to counter “manipulations” by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
In response, former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev warned that Russia would cut off supplies to Europe if EU imposes such price caps. Reduced Nord Stream deliveries and limited gas flow from Ukraine have left EU countries scrambling to fill their tanks as winter approaches.
Other countries are considering enacting emergency measures that would urge businesses and households to ration and cut back on their energy use. Some major European firms have already reduced their output due to the soaring prices.
Germany’s network regulator Bundesnetzagentur said it is now better prepared to deal with Russian supply disruptions. However, it also warned that individuals and businesses would have to cut back on their energy use.
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