Russian Gazprom-led gas pipeline operator Nord Stream said it resumed pumping gas through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to Germany on Thursday morning after a 10-day outage, initially easing Europe’s concerns that the maintenance period will be extended.
"We are in process of resuming gas transportation. It can take few hours to reach the nominated transport volumes," a spokesperson for the operator told Reuters.
Prices for the August spot gas futures contract, traded on the TTF platform in the Netherlands, rolled back in the first half of the day. However, they recovered later to trade at €154 ($157) per megawatt as the market awaited independent confirmation of the volume of incoming flows from Nord Stream 1.
Two German gas transmission operators, NEL and OPAL, which handle incoming gas from Nord Stream 1, said they expected 2.6 million cubic metres from the operator for 21 July. However, the actual shipping volumes from Russia, which are usually updated each hour, have remained at zero according to the NEL and OPAL’s network transparency platforms.
Operator Nord Stream, which established its own information platform on its website while the pipeline was shut down, indicated that flows to Germany stabilised at about 2.8 MMcm per hour on Thursday.
European governments have been bracing for possible further supply cuts and have been chasing alternative supplies, although the global gas market was stretched even before the Ukraine crisis, with demand for the fuel recovering from the pandemic-induced downturn.
Russia had been slowly reducing gas supplies to Europe for several months, even before the West imposed sanctions following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.
Nord Stream 1 can transport 55 billion cubic metres per annum of gas — close to 170 million cubic metres per day and accounts for more than a third of Russian gas exports to the European Union.
However, the reduced supplies have exacerbated an energy crisis in the region, sending gas prices rocketing and putting the region at risk of rationing and shortages as it seeks to refill energy stores ahead of winter.
A spokesperson for Austria’s OMV said Gazprom signalled it would deliver around 50% of the agreed volumes on Thursday, which is on par with levels before the shutdown.
On 14 June, Russia reduced Nord Stream 1’s gas flows to about 67 MMcmd — 40% of capacity — citing a turbine being serviced in Canada for the delay.
According to German government officials quoted by the country’s news outlets, including Spiegel, the unit has arrived in the country and is being prepared for transportation to Russia.
As the West accuses Moscow of using its energy resources as a weapon, some European governments, such as Germany, have said the turbine delay was not a good enough reason for the curtailment of Russian gas supplies.
However, Russia insists it is a reliable supplier and dismisses Western claims it is using energy to blackmail Europe. It also accuses the West of economic warfare against Russia via its support for Ukraine.
The European Commission presented a plan of suggested measures to member states on Wednesday to cut gas usage by 15% starting from 1 August until March amid further warnings from Russia’s President Vladimir Putin about future Russian supplies.
Baltic Pipe's helping hand
Meanwhile, Poland, which cut its supplies from Gazprom in May, has taken another step towards securing alternative gas supplies from the North Sea by the end of the third quarter of this year.
Polish gas transmission operator Gaz-System said it has connected the country’s national transmission network with the 275-kilometre Baltic Pipe linking Denmark and Poland and which, after its commissioning, enable both countries to access North Sea gas or liquefied natural gas from a terminal in Poland.