Germany Says Situation With Natural Gas Is ‘Tense’ and Could Deteriorate, After Sounding Gas Crisis Alarm

Germany Says Situation With Natural Gas Is ‘Tense’ and Could Deteriorate, After Sounding Gas Crisis Alarm
Steam leaves a cooling tower of the Lichterfelde gas-fired power plant in Berlin, Germany on March 30, 2022. (Michael Sohn/AP Photo)
Katabella Roberts

Officials in Germany on Tuesday said that the situation with natural gas in the country was “tense” and could worsen, just days after the government triggered the “alert level” of its emergency gas plan.

In its gas supply report, the country’s Federal Network Agency, also known as Bundesnetzagentur, announced that it is “monitoring the situation very closely and is in constant contact with the companies in the gas industry.”

“The situation is tense and a worsening of the situation cannot be ruled out,” it noted.

However, it stressed that the gas supply in Germany is currently stable and that presently, the security of supply in Germany continues to be “safeguarded.”

Current storage levels at facilities across Germany are just over 60 percent, according to the agency, which noted that they are “now in some cases significantly higher than in 2015, 2017, 2018, and 2021” (pdf).

The storage level at the Rehden facility in northern Germany, one of the largest pore storage facilities in Western Europe, is at 16.59 percent, officials said.

However, the Bundesnetzagentur noted that the flow of gas from the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, which is the main pipeline transporting natural gas to Germany from Russia, has been reduced to about 40 percent of its maximum capacity.

The reduction came after the Russian state-controlled energy giant Gazprom said earlier in June that it was reducing flows of natural gas because of technical issues, stating on Twitter that Germany’s Siemens Energy has failed to return gas compressor units “in due time” after they were sent for repair.

Sounding the Alarm

Germany is the world’s top importer of Russian gas, getting roughly 35 percent of its natural gas from the transcontinental country.
Following Gazprom’s announcement, which came after a string of Western sanctions over Russia' invasion of Ukraine, Germany’s economy ministry said that the country’s natural gas supply is still “guaranteed” and “unchanged.”

However, on June 23, Germany triggered the “alarm stage” of its three-level gas emergency plan aimed at safeguarding against shortages.

The final stage of the plan would involve rationing gas supplies throughout the country, but that has not yet been triggered.

Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Climate Action Robert Habeck said, “Even if it is still possible at present to purchase and store volumes of gas on the market, the situation is serious, and the winter will come.”

“We can’t pretend otherwise: The reduction in the gas supplies is an attack on our economy by Putin. It is manifestly Putin’s strategy to sow uncertainty, to drive up prices, and to split our society. We are defending ourselves against this. But we as a country have to take a difficult path. Even if we don’t feel it yet, we are in the midst of a gas crisis. From now on, gas is a scarce asset.”

To offset the drop in gas supplies from Russia ahead of a potential energy crisis this winter, Germany has decided to restart decommissioned coal power plants.

“We are bringing coal-fired power plants back to the market, and cutting the volume of gas consumed. This is painful, because coal-fired power plants are simply toxic for the climate. But we have to do it for a transitional period in order to save gas and get through the winter,” said Habeck.

The country has also vowed to reduce its dependence on Russian energy.

Meanwhile, the Kremlin has maintained that Russia is a reliable energy supplier and “strictly fulfills all its obligations“ to Europe.