Russia indefinitely closes the Nord Stream gas pipeline | International
The energy war waged by Russia and the European Union over the conflict in Ukraine has reached a critical point this Friday. The Kremlin’s gas monopoly, Gazprom, announced the indefinite closure of the Nord Stream gas pipeline after assuring that it had detected oil leaks in the only currently active compressor unit, and its repair “is only possible by a specialized repair company”. That is, in the facilities that Siemens has in Canada, a country that included Gazprom on its list of sanctions. The supply had been interrupted —in principle due to maintenance work— since August 31 and was due to resume at dawn on Saturday. The Russian announcement, a few hours before the deadline, adds uncertainty to the future of this pumping, necessary for European supply.
The move aggravates a trend whereby the flow of Russian gas to the European Union is on the way to being anecdotal. According to the latest data collected by the thinktank Bruegel, from August 22 to 28, Moscow supplied 856 million cubic meters of gas to the community bloc, a third of what was pumped in the same week in 2021 and far from its historical maximum (3,811 million). With the suspension of Nordstream, which transports Russian gas from Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea and which was already only operating at 20% of its capacity before the interruption of recent days, the supply only reaches the EU in two ways: the tube that crosses Ukraine (it sends 278 million cubic meters compared to 736 a year ago) and the one that crosses Turkey (316 million, a hundred more than in 2021). The Polish road is completely closed.
“The gas supply will be completely suspended until the (problems) highlighted in the operation of the equipment are eliminated,” Gazprom warned in a statement published through Telegram. The company attached a photo where “one of the identified leaks” is observed, an oil spill next to some cables.
The European Commission is suspicious of the technical arguments used by Russia. “Gazprom’s announcement this afternoon that it will once again shut down Nord Stream 1 under bogus pretexts is yet another confirmation of its unreliability as a supplier,” official Commission spokesman Eric Mamer tweeted.
The Community Executive, in addition, has climbed a step by stating that what happened is “proof of Russia’s cynicism, since it prefers to burn gas instead of fulfilling contracts,” reports Manuel V. Gomez.
Germany, one of the countries most affected by this interruption, welcomed the news assuring that it is better prepared for gas cuts than in the past. This was stated by a spokesman for the German Ministry of Economy. “We had already seen in recent weeks that Russia was not to be trusted, so we have taken steps to strengthen our independence from Russian energy imports,” the spokesman said in a statement. And he added: “We are much better prepared than we were a few months ago. These are hard times. Greater efforts will be required, but we are on the right track to properly deal with the situation.”
Join EL PAÍS to follow all the news and read without limits.
Gazprom’s announcement came a few hours after the G-7 plus Brussels agreed to impose a maximum price on Russian oil and the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, advocated extending this measure to gas imports.
Nord Stream had been running at 20% capacity since July. Gazprom had stopped two of its three Portovaya pumping stations due to its disputes with Canada and the European Union at the cost of the sanctions imposed on the gas company by the North American country.
Ottawa initially retained a turbine that had been sent there for repairs at the end of the year due to Ukraine war restrictions, but later agreed to allow its return to help the EU bloc phase out Russian gas. . However, the piece has since remained in Germany because Moscow demands in writing that Gazprom will not be sanctioned. A second station was shut down because Gazprom said it too might need repairs.
With this struggle in the background, the gas company announced a few weeks ago a new “routine” revision of the Portovaya station between August 31 and September 3. The German Federal Network Agency denounced this measure as “incomprehensible”.
It has been in these alleged maintenance tasks that Gazprom announces having detected, “together with Siemens representatives”, an oil leak mixed with a sealing compound between the speed sensors of the low and medium pressure rotors, as well as another loss of liquid in the box of an automatic control. “The detected damages do not allow safe and trouble-free operation of the gas turbine engine. In this sense, it is necessary to take the appropriate measures and suspend the activity of the Trent 60 gas compression unit, announced the gas company.
The Russian giant emphasized that these problems were also found before in the compressor units that “are now in a state of forced shutdown”, and announced that it has sent a letter to the director of Siemens to take action.
This same Friday, Vladimir Putin’s spokesman anticipated that the operation of Nord Stream was on the edge due to the lack of spare parts, as a result of the sanctions. “There are no technological reserves, only one turbine works, think about it,” Dmitri Peskov responded to a journalist when asked if the gas pipeline would resume its activity.
The European Union, on the other hand, does have gas reserves to face the winter. The latest data from the Gas Infrastructure Europe group indicate that the objective of filling at least 80% of the gas stores for winter has already been met.
Follow all the international information in Facebook Y Twitteror in our weekly newsletter.