Russia’s Gazprom shuts down gas pipeline to Germany

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BERLIN (AP) – Europe’s energy crisis threatened to deepen on Friday after Russia’s energy giant Gazprom said it could not resume supply of natural gas through a major pipeline to Germany for the time being. The company said urgent maintenance was needed to repair key components — in an announcement made just hours before deliveries were to resume.

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The state-owned Russian energy company shut down the Nord Stream 1 pipeline on Wednesday for allegedly three-day maintenance work.

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A social media post Friday night said it had identified “malfunctions” in a turbine, adding that the pipeline would not function unless these were rectified.

The move was the latest development in a saga in which Gazprom has cited technical problems as the reason for reducing gas flow through Nord Stream 1 – statements that German officials have dismissed as a cover for a political power play in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

European utilities have struggled to find extra supplies in the summer months to prepare for winter heating needs, buying expensive liquefied natural gas to be delivered by ship, while additional supplies have come by pipeline from Norway and Azerbaijan.

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Fears of winter shortages have eased somewhat as storage has progressed, but a full shutdown could pose serious difficulties for Europe, analysts say. The European Union must step up its efforts to reduce gas consumption, said energy policy expert Simone Tagliapietra from the Bruegel Think Tank in Brussels.

Gazprom’s ongoing disruptions mean that “a winter without Russian gas is the key scenario for Europe.” he said. “There is only one way to prepare for this: reducing gas and electricity requirements.”

Gazprom said it found oil leaks from four turbines at the Portovaya compressor station at the Russian end of the pipeline, including the only ones in operation. She claimed to have received warnings from Russia’s industrial safety guard that the leaks “do not allow for safe, trouble-free operation of the gas turbine engine.”

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“In this context, it is necessary to take appropriate measures and to stop further operation of the … gas compressor plant in connection with the identified gross (safety) violations,” the company said.

Gazprom began cutting supplies through Nord Stream 1 in mid-June, blaming delays in the delivery of a turbine that had been sent to Canada for repairs. Canada has since approved delivery of the turbine to Germany, which has said there is nothing stopping it from being shipped to Russia, except that Russia says it wants the part.

In recent weeks, Nord Stream 1 has been running at just 20% of its capacity.

Germany’s Siemens Energy, which manufactured the turbines, said after Gazprom’s announcement that “such a finding is not a technical reason for the cessation of operations.”

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“Such leaks do not usually affect the operation of a turbine and can be sealed on site,” it said in a statement. This is “a routine maintenance operation” and this type of leak has not resulted in a downtime in the past.

Siemens Energy said it is not currently tasked with maintenance but is standing by. “Separately, we have already pointed out several times that there are enough additional turbines available at the Portovaya compressor station for the operation of Nord Stream 1,” she added.

Russia, which accounted for just over a third of Germany’s gas supplies before the cuts began, has also reduced gas flows to other European countries that have sided with Ukraine in the war.

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Natural gas is used to power industry, heat homes and offices, and generate electricity. Since Russia invaded Ukraine, increasing the reserve quantity has been a central concern of the federal government in order to avoid industrial rationing when demand increases in winter.

Germany’s storage facilities are now more than 84% full.

The head of Germany’s grid regulator, Klaus Müller, tweeted that Russia’s decision to keep Nord Stream 1 shut down for now increases the importance of new liquefied natural gas terminals that Germany plans to start up this winter, gas storage and “significant need to save gas.” .

It is “good that Germany is now better prepared, but now it depends on everyone,” added Müller.

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Germany’s economy ministry said it had “taken note” of Gazprom’s recent announcement and would not comment directly, but added that “we have already seen Russia’s unreliability in recent weeks” and continued efforts to reduce the country’s dependency country from Russian energy imports.

“Of course these are difficult times, but we will continue to consistently strengthen the regulations,” the ministry said in a statement. “A lot of effort is still needed, but we are well on our way to managing the situation.”

The European Union has just met its target of filling its gas storage facilities to 80% before the November 1 deadline, despite Russian supply cuts.

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Kozlowska contributed from London. David McHugh in Frankfurt, Germany also contributed to this story.

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Follow all of AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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