Gazprom has apparently left customers in northern and central Europe at bare export contract levels this year, diverting most of its incremental output to Turkey, China, Bulgaria, Romania and Greece.

The Russian state-controlled gas monopoly’s latest operational statement, plus data from European transmission operators, suggest it has refused to supply more gas to underground storage facilities in some countries.

This is seen by many observers as retaliation for opposition to its subsea gas export pipeline to Germany, Nord Stream 2.

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However, the company has repeatedly insisted that it is working hard to boost production to meet growing demand, switching to announcing its operating performance to the public on a half-monthly basis.

In its latest report, covering its operating metrics between 1 January and 31 July, Gazprom said its output increased by 18.4% from the same period last year, to more than 298 billion cubic metres.

It claimed exports rose by 23%, or 21.7 Bcm, to 115.3 Bcm, although it refused to detail this increase by export destinations.

However, data from two German transmission operators, Opal and NEL, actually revealed a slight drop in Gazprom’s exports by about 900 million cubic metres between January and July compared with the same period of 2020.

Opal and NEL handle Russian gas deliveries via the Nord Stream pipeline, which is currently Gazprom’s largest supply route to northern Europe.

Statistics provided by another transmission operator, Gascade, which takes on Russian gas at the Polish-German border from the Yamal Pipeline, revealed that Gazprom increased exports to Germany by just over 3.6 Bcm via this route.

As a result, Germany has experienced net growth of Russian imports of just 2.7 Bcm this year.

Data from Ukraine’s state transmission company, Operator GTS Ukrainy, shows that Gazprom reduced its transit shipments to countries in central Europe by 4.2 Bcm to 25.6 Bcm between January and July against 2020.

Shift in gas export flows

Gazprom has not disclosed the volumes of gas it supplies via the subsea Blue Stream and TurkStream pipelines to Turkey, from where Russian gas is re-exported to countries in southern Europe.

However, it said deliveries to Turkey doubled between January and July, with double-digit percentage growth in supplies to Bulgaria, Romania and Greece.

However, these three countries are not major importers of Russian gas: Gazprom sent just 5.8 Bcm to the trio in 2019, according to its subsidiary Gazprom Export.

That leaves Turkey and China soaking up the most of incremental exports this year that Gazprom reported.

Gazprom’s apparent decision to redirect export flows has sent spot prices in European gas hubs above $500 per 1000 cubic metres, according to analysts in Moscow.

Nord Stream 2 in focus

That, in turn, has triggered new attempts from lawmakers in the US and eight European countries to block the expected start-up of operations of Nord Stream 2 later this year after US President Joe Biden decided to ease pressure on the project.

In a joint statement, lawmakers described Nord Stream 2 as a geopolitical project, aimed at boosting Russian dominance of the European energy market.

Polish state oil and gas producer PGNiG said it has submitted a request to Germany’s Federal Network Agency to participate in the certification procedure for the Nord Stream 2 pipeline operator.

In June, the operator asked the agency to be granted the status of an independent transmission operator, to avoid some of the restrictions spelled out in European gas market regulations, commonly known as the Third Energy Package.

PGNiG said there are no legal grounds for granting such “privileged status” to the Swiss-based operator and therefore for “starting operations of Nord Stream 2”.