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11 Jul 2022, 12:22
Julian Wettengel

Germany faces uncertainty over Russian gas supply as Nord Stream maintenance starts

Clean Energy Wire / Dlf

Russian natural gas supplier Gazprom halted flows almost entirely through Nord Stream on Monday morning (11 July) as about ten days of planned maintenance work began, with the German government bracing itself for a potentially permanent halt or reduction of supplies. The maintenance of the pipeline, which directly connects Russia and Germany, is performed around the same time every year. Once the work is done, gas flows could resume, but it is also possible that Russia decides politically to halt supplies permanently, economy minister Robert Habeck told public broadcaster Deutschlandfunk (Dlf). “It's simply a situation like we haven't had before. Everything is possible,” said Habeck. Germany must “prepare for the worst” and at the same time “work towards the best,” he added.

Russia has reduced flows through Nord Stream to about 40 percent of total capacity, blaming sanctions that had held up spare parts in Canada. A repaired turbine can now be returned to Germany, said Canada’s minister of natural resources Jonathan Wilkinson, arguing that “absent a necessary supply of natural gas, the German economy will suffer significant hardship and Germans themselves will be at risk of being unable to heat their homes as winter approaches.” The head of the German gas grid regulator BNetzA, Klaus Müller, said this would mean that there would no longer be an argument for throttling Nord Stream 1. Gas storage filling would be easier and gas prices could drop, he added. “I am sceptical but curious.”

Habeck told Dlf he saw a possible severe gas shortage in the coming winter – where the government would have to ration gas in a non-functioning market – as a “political nightmare scenario,” which would put Germany to a test. There would be no right or wrong when it came to rationing decisions, said Habeck. “It can only be wrong, but more or less wrong, I would say. And I have no illusions about the debates that will ensue, including about my ministry and myself.”

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