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Business

EU gas prices rocket higher after Russia stops the Nord Stream flows




Pipes at the landing facilities of the ‘Nord Stream 1’ gas pipeline are pictured in Lubmin, Germany, March 8, 2022. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke/File Photo

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  • European gas price up approx. 400% compared to a year ago
  • EU states have triggered emergency gas plans
  • Disruptions hamper EU efforts to replenish stocks
  • Russia says sanctions hamper pipeline operations

LONDON/OSLO, Sept 5 (Reuters) – European gas prices rocketed as much as 30% higher on Monday after Russia said one of its main gas supply pipelines to Europe would remain shut indefinitely, sparking renewed fears of shortages and gas rationing in European Union this winter.

The benchmark gas price rose as high as 272 euros per megawatt hour (MWh) when the market opened after Russia said on Friday that a leak in the Nord Stream 1 pipeline equipment meant it would remain shut beyond last week’s three-day maintenance shutdown.

The Dutch TTF October gas contract had eased to 256 euros, up 23% on the day by 0723 GMT, but nearly 400% higher than a year ago. This year’s price rise has squeezed already struggling consumers and forced some industries to halt production.

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Europe has accused Russia of weaponizing energy supplies in retaliation for Western sanctions imposed on Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine. Russia says the West has started an economic war and sanctions have hampered pipeline operations.

The Nord Stream pipeline, which runs under the Baltic Sea to Germany, historically delivered about a third of the gas Russia exported to Europe, but it was already operating at just 20% of capacity before flows were halted last week for maintenance.

Russian gas delivered via Ukraine, another key route, has also been reduced, leaving the EU scrambling to find alternative supplies to top up gas stocks for the winter. Several states have triggered emergency plans that could lead to energy rationing and raise the prospect of a recession.

“Supply is hard to come by, and it’s getting harder and harder to replace every bit of gas that doesn’t come from Russia,” said Jacob Mandel, senior associate for commodities at Aurora Energy Research.

Skyrocketing power costs have already forced some energy-hungry industries, including fertilizer and aluminum makers, to scale back output, prompting EU governments to pump billions of euros into schemes to help households. read more

PREPARING FOR THE WORST

EU energy ministers are due to meet on September 9 to discuss options to curb high energy prices, including gas price caps and emergency credit lines for energy market participants, a document seen by Reuters showed. read more

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Sunday that Germany, the EU’s economic powerhouse and Europe’s largest gas consumer, has prepared for a total halt in gas supplies.

Germany is in phase two of a three-stage emergency gas plan. Phase three will lead to some industrial rationing. read more

In its race for alternative gas supplies, Germany is rapidly installing temporary liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals to receive gas from producers farther away, and it plans to build permanent LNG facilities. read more

Norway, a major European gas producer, has also pumped more fuel into European markets.

“There are plenty of opportunities to replace the (Russian) gas with LNG imports for now, but when the weather turns cold and demand starts to pick up in the winter in Europe and Asia, there is only so much LNG out there as Europe can import, said Mandel.

The global market for LNG was already tight as the world economy soaked up supplies in the recovery from the pandemic, even before the Ukraine crisis added to the challenge.

Klaus Mueller, president of Germany’s energy regulator, the Federal Network Agency, said in August that even if Germany’s gas reserves were 100% full, they would be empty within 2-1/2 months if Russian gas flows were cut off completely.

Germany’s storage facilities are now about 85% full, while facilities across Europe reached a target of 80% last week.

Although Russian gas has continued to flow to Europe via Ukraine, albeit at reduced levels, analysts said those supplies could also fall victim to the conflict.

“We are shifting our focus to (the gas) … which continues to flow to Europe through Ukraine,” James Huckstepp, EMEA gas analyst at S&P Global Platts, said in a Twitter post, adding that it was “just a matter of time” …” before they encountered disturbances.

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Reporting by Susanna Twidale and Nora Buli in OSLO; Editing by Jan Harvey and Edmund Blair

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.



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