© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Pipes at the landfall facilities of the ‘Nord Stream 1’ gas pipeline are pictured in Lubmin, Germany, March 8, 2022. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke
(Reuters) -Russia said on Friday gas deliveries via one of the main supply routes to Europe, the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, remained at risk because just one turbine was operational, deepening European concerns as it struggles to secure enough fuel for winter.
Nord Stream 1, which runs under the Baltic Sea to supply Germany and others, was running at 20% capacity even before flows were halted for three days this week for maintenance. Deliveries are due to resume on Saturday at 0100 GMT.
Moscow blames sanctions, imposed by the West after Russia invaded Ukraine, for hampering routine operations and maintenance of Nord Stream 1. Brussels says this is a pretext and Russia is using gas as an economic weapon to retaliate.
Sources familiar with Gazprom (MCX:)’s plans said the state-controlled firm was set to resume Nord Stream 1 deliveries on schedule, although European nations remain wary about Russian intentions.
European Union Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said the bloc should impose a price cap on Russian pipeline gas to foil what she said were Russian President Vladimir Putin’s attempts to manipulate the market.
Gas prices have sky-rocketed, hurting European industry and households, surging first due to recovering demand after the pandemic and then rising further because of the Ukraine crisis.
“We see that the electricity market does not work anymore because it is massively disrupted due to Putin’s manipulations,” Von der Leyen said, adding that a gas price cap on Russian pipeline supplies could be proposed at the European level.
Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Moscow would turn off supplies to Europe if Brussels imposed such a cap.
Reduced deliveries via Nord Stream, alongside lower gas flows via Ukraine, another major route, have left European states struggling to refill storage tanks for winter and prompted many to trigger emergency plans that could lead to energy rationing.
‘RESOURCES ARE MISSING’
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov added to concerns on Friday that there could be more disruptions to deliveries via Nord Stream 1.
“It’s not the fault of Gazprom that the resources are missing. Therefore, the reliability of the entire system is at risk,” he said when asked if more outages could be expected.
Operator data on requests for Russian gas via the pipeline, known as nominations, suggested flows should resume on Saturday. But the requests were far below levels seen before the latest maintenance, when the pipeline was only at 20% capacity.
A German economy ministry spokesperson said the data should be viewed with caution. “Things will become clearer over the course of Saturday morning, we can only closely watch the situation,” the spokesperson said.
Gazprom Chief Executive Alexei Miller said on Wednesday that sanctions meant Siemens Energy, a pipeline equipment supplier, could not carry out regular maintenance.
Siemens Energy, which normally services Nord Stream 1 turbines, said it was not involved in maintenance work now being conducted by Gazprom. It has also said it was ready to help if needed and has said maintenance was excluded from sanctions.
EU governments have been preparing for the possibility that Russia stops deliveries completely, after Gazprom first reduced flows in June and then again in July. This week’s maintenance halt was announced at short notice.
Germany, which has been particularly reliant on Russian supplies in the past, has been racing to install temporary liquefied (LNG) terminals to ship in gas, before it builds permanent LNG facilities.
Germany’s storage tanks are now nearly 85% full, on track to hit a Oct. 1 target earlier than planned. But Berlin says hitting its target of 95% by a Nov. 1 would still be tough unless companies and households used less fuel.
The EU as a whole has exceeded its target for storage to be 80% full by Oct. 1, ready for when heating usage picks up.
Some energy-intensive European companies, such as fertiliser and aluminium producers, have already cut back output due to sky-high power prices, while some European domestic consumers have reined in usage to save on escalating household energy bills.