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Russia indefinitely suspends Europe's gas flow

September 2, 2022

Russian energy giant Gazprom has said gas supplies to Western Europe via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline have completely stopped due to equipment issues. It gave no time frame on when it would restart the pipeline.

The Portovaya gas compressor station
Gazprom has said a leak was detected in a turbine at the Portovaya compressor station near St. PetersburgImage: Nord Stream AG/ZUMA Wire/imago images

Russia halts gas supplies to Germany

Gazprom halted gas flows through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to Germany on Friday, citing a gas leak and providing no time frame for when supplies could be restarted.

What do we know so far?

The state-owned oil firm said supplies would remain halted through Saturday after the leak was detected. The energy giant said the pipeline would not restart until repairs were fully implemented.

Gazprom said the leak was found at the main gas turbine at the Portovaya compressor station near St. Petersburg. On Telegram, Gazprom published a picture of cables covered in a brown liquid, claiming it was a consequence of the defect uncovered by the the state-owned firm.

A map of northeastern Europe showing the route of the Nord Stream pipeline

On August 19, Gazprom said it would stop the flow of gas through the pipeline from August 31 until September 2 due to routine maintenance. On Wednesday, the Russian gas giant said the shutdown would last only three days.

Moscow has blamed Western sanctions over the war in Ukraine for deterring routine maintenance of the Nord Stream 1 pipeline.

Gazprom had sent the 12-meter-long Siemens Energy SGT-A65 (Trent 60) turbine weighing at 20 tons for repairs in Canada in July after a sanctions waiver was permitted.

In response, Siemens Energy said, "Such leaks do not normally affect the operation of a turbine and can be sealed on site. It is a routine procedure within the scope of maintenance work."

The German energy giant added: "We have already pointed out several times that there are sufficient other turbines available at the Portovaya compressor station for Nord Stream 1 to operate."

How has Germany reacted to the shutdown?

"For the time being, the LNG terminals, the relevant storage levels and significant savings requirements are becoming more important," said Klaus Mueller, head of Germany's network regulatory agency, on Friday. "It's good that Germany is now better prepared, but now it's down to each and everyone."

A spokesperson for Economy Minister Robert Habeck said Germany was continuing to uncouple its energy supply from Russia. "We have seen Russia's unreliability in past weeks and so have continued to take measures to reinforce our independence from Russian energy imports," said the spokesperson.

Germany has accused Moscow of using gas as a political weapon. "They don't even have the guts to say 'we are in an economic war with you'," Habeck said last month.

Inflation is hitting Germany's poor

EU gas prices soar amid pipeline shutdowns

Gas prices in Europe have soared in recent months, harming households and industry alike.

While European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen has argued in support of price caps on Russian gas to Europe as a result, Moscow has pushed back, saying it would be sufficient cause to halt sales to Europe altogether.

"We see that the electricity market does not work anymore because it is massively disrupted due to Putin's manipulations," she said.

On Wednesday, Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller said Siemens Energy, a pipeline equipment supplier, could not carry out regular maintenance because of sanctions.

In June, Russia reduced flows through the pipeline to 40% of capacity, decreasing to 20% in July.

Europe in 'extremely serious situation'

Europe is at "economic war" with Russia, and politicians should stop tip-toing around the issue, Anne-Sophie Corbeau, global research scholar at the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University, told DW.  

"I mean, people need to realize that and we need to think as we should be thinking in terms of an economic war, not try to timidly figure maybe we can reduce a little bit," she said. "This is extremely serious situation we are in," she added.

Europe needs to reduce energy demand: researcher

Corbeau said it was time to reduce demand for gas drastically, "politicians need to be extremely honest with the population." 

"They have been going around in the world trying to get additional gas supplies. They have not been focusing enough on the demand side," she said.

ar/wd (AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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