FRANKFURT, Germany ( Associated Press) — The head of the International Energy Agency has blamed Russia for worsening Europe’s natural gas crisis., saying on Wednesday that high prices and low storage levels stemmed largely from the behavior of state-owned gas supplier Gazprom.
Russia could send a third more gas through existing pipelines, said Fatih Birol, executive director of the Paris-based 30-member organization, which provides policy recommendations on affordable and sustainable energy. That would be around 10% of European daily consumption – which industry officials say would be needed to avoid severe shortages in the case of colder-than-expected weather.
“In terms of European gas … we believe there are strong elements of consolidation in European gas markets due to Russia’s behavior,” Birol told reporters.
“Unlike other pipeline supporters such as Norway, Algeria and Azerbaijan, which increase their supplies to Europe, Gazprom reduced its exports to Europe by 25%” compared to a year ago in the fourth quarter “despite higher market prices”. , he added.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has underlined that Gazprom has met its obligations under long-term contracts and blamed high position gas prices on European decisions to move towards volatile short-term market pricing. He has also said that German gas customers are reselling Russian gas to Poland and Ukraine instead of meeting their own market needs.
Other factors contributing to Europe’s low gas reserves included a cold winter last year, less electricity from renewables and stronger summer demand for shipments of liquefied gas in Asia.
When pressed by reporters on the call, Birol directly protested, saying that Russia was using the gas to exert political pressure on Western Europe. Russia has moved thousands of troops near its border with Ukraine and demanded that Ukraine be permanently barred from membership in the NATO alliance. It also wants German and EU regulators to approve its newly built Nord Stream 2 pipeline Which will bypass other countries and start bringing natural gas directly to Europe, but it is facing opposition from Ukraine, Poland and the US
Birol replied: “I would also note that today’s low Russian gas flow into Europe coincides with heightened geopolitical tensions over Ukraine. I just wanted to highlight this coincidence.”
gas level in underground storage – the primary way utilities meet increased demand for heat and electricity – are at only 50% capacity compared to the historical average of 70% at this point in the year. This has pushed up natural gas prices, a business opportunity that Russia’s state-owned Gazprom has abandoned.
“Uncertainty about price and supply remains high, with most of the heating season yet to come,” Birol said. He said supplies of liquefied natural gas shipped by ship were helping, but its timeliness was limited due to the long transportation times.
He said Gazprom was behind very little storage, with the company accounting for half of the losses in stored gas despite the company having only 10% of Europe’s storage capacity.