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Russia Resumes Gas Flows to Europe After Fears of a Total Shutdown

Hannibal Hanschke | Reuters
  • There had been concerns across the region that there could be a complete shutdown of gas supplies via the pipeline after it was closed earlier this month for maintenance.
  • Data on operator Nord Stream's website showed that flows increased from zero to 29,284,591 kWh/h for 0600-0700 Central European Time Thursday.
  • On July 10, the last day of operations before the maintenance work began, flows were at roughly the same level, just above the 29,000,000 kWh/h.

The operator of Nord Stream 1, a key gas pipeline which runs from Russia to Germany, said Thursday it was in the process of resuming flows to Europe.

There had been concerns across the region that there could be a complete shutdown of gas supplies via the pipeline after it was closed earlier this month for maintenance. Flows had been due to be restart Thursday after the completion of the works.

A spokesperson for Nord Stream confirmed to CNBC via email that the company is "in process of resuming gas transportation."

"It can take some hours to reach the nominated transport volumes," they added.

Data on operator Nord Stream's website showed that flows increased from zero to 29,284,591 kWh/h for 0600-0700 Central European Time Thursday. On July 10, the last day of operations before the maintenance work began, flows were at roughly the same level, just above the 29,000,000 kWh/h.

Flows are running at reduced volumes, however, and have been since Russia's onslaught in Ukraine with Moscow squeezing supplies to the European region. But it's still likely to be a welcome relief to European officials who have been scrambling to find alternative suppliers to Russian gas.

Germany, and the EU more broadly, have been dependent on Russian fossil fuels for years and there has been a broad-based attempt to reverse this in the wake of Moscow's invasion of Ukraine. Since March, the EU has negotiated new gas deals with the United States and Azerbaijan, and has held talks with Israel and Qatar.

Speaking Wednesday, Ursula von der Leyen, European Commission president, said Russia was blackmailing Europe and using energy as a weapon. Russia has repeatedly denied it is weaponizing fossil fuel supplies and the Kremlin was not immediately available for comment when contacted by CNBC Thursday.

Leverage for Putin?

Despite news that flows have restarted, the EU will continue to push ahead with contingency plans in case of a full shutdown in gas supplies from Russia. The commission has told the 27 EU nations that they need to cut their gas consumption by 15% until March, in an effort to save energy.

Von der Leyen has said that it is likely that the Kremlin will go ahead with a complete cut-off of gas supplies to Europe.

"As if Nord Stream 1 going back to 30% today can be read in any way in terms of Putin's intention in terms of assuring European gas supply," Timothy Ash, economist at BlueBay Asset Management, said in a note Thursday.

"What we know is that Putin has no intention of helping Europe get through the winter in terms of gas supply without difficulty. He wants a gas and energy crisis in Europe this winter as this gives him leverage," he added.

 

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