BERLIN: The German government said Monday that a turbine at the center of uncertainty about future gas deliveries through a major pipeline from Russia to Europe was only supposed to be installed in September, underlining its insistence that there should be no technical obstacle to the gas flow.
Meanwhile, Germany’s biggest importer of Russian gas said it had received a letter from Russia’s Gazprom claiming “force majeure” — events beyond its control — as the reason for past and current shortfalls in gas deliveries, a claim that the importer rejected. Analysts say the impact of the move on future gas deliveries is uncertain.
Gazprom reduced gas deliveries through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to Germany by 60% last month. The state-owned gas company cited alleged technical problems involving equipment that partner Siemens Energy sent to Canada for overhaul and couldn’t be returned because of sanctions imposed over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The Canadian government said over a week ago that it would allow the gas turbine that powers a compressor station to be delivered to Germany, citing the “very significant hardship” that the German economy would suffer without a sufficient gas supply to keep industries running and to generate heat and electricity.
German politicians have dismissed Russia’s technical explanation for last month’s reduction in gas flowing through Nord Stream 1, saying the decision was a political gambit by the Kremlin to sow uncertainty and further push up energy prices.
“We don’t see technical reasons,” Economy Ministry spokeswoman Beate Baron told reporters in Berlin. “Our information is that this turbine is a replacement turbine that was earmarked for use in September but, again, we are doing everything to take away possible pretexts for the Russian side.”
Nord Stream 1 shut down altogether for annual maintenance on July 11. German officials are concerned that Russia may not resume gas deliveries at all after the scheduled end of that work Thursday and could cite an alleged technical reason not to do so.
Gazprom saying they’re not responsible for gas shortfalls “does fit the market expectations/fears that there would be some kind of argument to not restart the Nord Stream 1 pipeline after the 10-day maintenance,” said Hans van Cleef, senior energy economist at ABN Amro. It remains to be seen “whether this is the argument or whether this is only a ‘warning.’”
As for the turbine, Baron would not say where it was, citing security reasons. He said no European Union permit is needed for its transport because it doesn’t fall under EU sanctions.
Gazprom has raised the turbine issue twice over recent days, saying Saturday that it had “formally approached” Siemens Energy to provide documents needed to transport the equipment back to Russia.
German energy company Uniper said it had “received a letter from Gazprom Export in which the company claims force majeure retroactively for past and current shortfalls in gas deliveries.
“We consider this as unjustified and have formally rejected the force majeure claim,” Uniper said in an email.
On July 8, Uniper — Germany’s biggest importer of Russian gas — asked the German government for a bailout to cope with surging gas prices.
While talks on that continue, Uniper said in a separate statement Monday that it was now fully using an existing 2 billion-euro (dollar) credit facility from Germany’s state-owned KfW development bank and applied to increase that facility.