According to Federal Economics Minister Robert Habeck, Germany is prepared for the sanctions announced by Russia in the energy sector. “We have prepared for the situation,” said the Green politician on Thursday in the Bundestag. Russia had previously imposed sanctions on Gazprom Germania and other former subsidiaries of the Russian gas company.
According to Habeck, the sanctions are already having an impact. In Germany, some of Gazprom’s subsidiaries “now no longer get gas from Russia,” he said. From Moscow it was said that the sanctioned companies were completely excluded from gas trading with Russia. Other companies in Europe would now have to take over, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Thursday, according to the Interfax news agency.
The market can compensate for the failure, said Habeck. The developments showed, however, that energy could be used as a weapon. The prerequisite for Germany to be secure in the future is the expansion of renewable energies.
The Russian government published an order on Wednesday stating that the Russian side was no longer allowed to do business with a total of 31 listed companies. Accordingly, the trade bans on behalf of Kremlin chief Vladimir Putin come into force immediately. Gazprom Germania was placed under German state control in early April.
As early as late Wednesday evening, the Federal Ministry of Economics said that the Federal Government and the Federal Network Agency, as trustee of Gazprom Germania, were preparing for various scenarios.
Transit of Russian gas through Ukraine to Europe has declined – though it’s unclear if it’s related to the sanctions. According to the Ukrainian network operator OGTSU, the order volume for the transmission of Russian gas was only 53.2 million cubic meters on Thursday.
According to the current transit contract, a maximum of 110 million cubic meters of Russian gas can be pumped through Ukraine to Europe every day. According to Russian information, the order volume on Tuesday was still 95.8 million cubic meters. On Wednesday, the gas volume fell to 72 million cubic meters because Ukraine had closed a pipeline through the heavily contested Luhansk region due to the war. Now it has fallen again by more than a quarter. A Gazprom spokesman said on Thursday that Ukraine had rejected an application to feed in more quantities via the Sokhranivka gas metering station in the border area with Luhansk.
Fluctuations in gas transit are common. In the past few weeks, comparable quantities have been routed through the Ukrainian pipeline system on several occasions. Most recently, the transit volume was similarly low on April 24 at 53 million cubic meters.
Gazprom Germania owns other important companies in the German gas industry. According to the Russian agency Interfax, stockpiling of Russian gas in Europe’s storage facilities will be banned in the future. It was initially unclear how such a ban would be enforced.
In Germany there are 47 underground storage facilities at 33 locations operated by around 25 companies. The energy group Uniper accounts for around a quarter of Germany’s storage capacity. However, the largest single storage facility is operated by the Gazprom Germania subsidiary Astora, which is subject to the new sanctions. The storage facility is located in Rehden, Lower Saxony. It accounts for around a fifth of German capacity. Most recently, however, hardly any gas was stored in the Rehden storage facility.
Uniper still sees many unanswered questions about the sanctions. “We are examining this in detail,” said a company spokesman on Thursday. In particular, the details of the ban on filling the gas storage facilities are unclear.
Gas storage compensates for fluctuations in gas consumption and thus forms a kind of buffer system for the gas market. The storage tanks are usually well filled at the beginning of the heating period in autumn, and the levels then decrease by spring. On cold winter days, up to 60 percent of gas consumption in Germany is covered by German storage facilities. According to the new storage law, they should be 90 percent full by November 1st. Last Monday, the storage tanks were almost 39 percent full – and the trend is rising.
The operators of gas storage facilities and the owner of the Polish part of the Yamal pipeline, which runs from Russia to Europe, are particularly affected by the Russian counter-sanctions. Russia had previously stopped supplying gas to Poland. Gazprom is still Germany’s largest gas supplier.
According to Habeck, it is possible that Germany could cope with a Russian gas boycott as early as next winter. “If we have full storage at the turn of the year, if two of the four floating LNG tankers we rent are already connected to the grid and if we save significantly on energy, we can get through the winter to some extent if Russian gas supplies are cut off,” said Habeck of the “Wirtschaftswoche”.
Habeck pleaded again for saving energy. “Less consumption is the be-all and end-all when it comes to gas.” If it is possible to save ten percent over the next two years in industry and in private households, according to the minister, “then these are the decisive percentages in order not to end up in an emergency devices. Everyone should take part. More efficiency is a key lever against Putin,” he said.
According to Habeck, two of the four liquefied natural gas (LNG) ships ordered for Germany already replace almost a quarter of Russian natural gas imports.
Despite the progress, Habeck warned in an interview with the “Wirtschaftswoche” of the economic risks of a gas stop: “Even under the conditions mentioned, the gas prices would then certainly be very high and the storage tanks would be empty at the end of winter.”