Nord Stream 1: Will the crucial Russian gas pipeline ever come back online?

That possibility is getting a boost as maintenance on the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline between Russia and Germany begins on Monday. Officials have expressed concern about restarting gas flows once the repair period is over in 10 days.

“While this was a routine procedure that attracted little attention, there are concerns this time that Russia may not resume gas shipments afterwards,” Commerzbank analysts said in a statement. a note to customers.

Flows through the pipeline had already been reduced. Last month, Germany – Europe’s biggest economy – declared a “gas crisis” after Gazprom, Russia’s state gas company, cut exports via Nord Stream 1 by 60%.

Gazprom blamed the move on the West’s decision to withhold vital turbines due to sanctions, but it was seen by European politicians as a wake-up call.

“Anything can happen. The gas might flow again, even more than before. It might be that nothing comes at all,” Robert Habeck, Germany’s economy minister, said in an interview with the German newspaper on Sunday. radio. “Honestly, we always have to prepare for the worst and work a little bit for the best.”

France’s finance minister also said on Sunday that the country should act quickly and effectively to prepare for a “total Russian gas cut”, despite being less dependent on gas as an energy source than Germany.

Nord Stream 1, commissioned in 2011, transports 55 billion cubic meters of gas per year to Europe via the Baltic Sea. Generally, Gazprom managed the maintenance period by increasing supplies to Europe through other pipelines or by operating storage. This time, the company said it was not an option, according to S&P Global Commodity Insights.

Italian gas giant Eni said Monday that Gazprom had told it it would start supplying 21 million cubic meters of gas per day. The average for the past few days was around 32 million cubic meters per day.

Europe is rushing to wean itself off Russian energy, but reducing its dependence on gas is particularly difficult. The region received 45% of its natural gas imports from Russia last year, and it is now rushing to fill storage facilities before winter.

Berlin has activated the second phase of its three-stage gas emergency program. This brings it closer to rationing supplies from industry players, a step that would deal a heavy blow to the manufacturing heart of the country’s economy.

Consumers have been urged to reduce demand as conservation efforts intensify. Last week, Germany’s biggest landlord said it would reduce heating for hundreds of thousands of residents in the coming months.

Benchmark natural gas prices in Europe hit their highest level since March last week. They could continue to climb in the coming days, intensifying pressure on governments to come up with contingency plans.

“Concerns are likely to push gas prices further up until it is known what will happen to gas supplies once maintenance work is completed,” Commerzbank said.

— Chris Liakos contributed reporting.

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