Berlin: Natural gas started flowing through a major pipeline from Russia to Europe on Thursday after a 10-day shutdown for maintenance — but the gas flow remained well short of full capacity and the outlook was uncertain, which leaves Europe still facing the prospect of a hard winter.
Deliveries through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline under the Baltic Sea resumed at 40 percent of capacity, the level they had been at for weeks before annual maintenance. The German government announced that it would step up its gas storage requirements and take further measures to save gas.
The pipeline had been closed since July 11 for maintenance. Amid growing tensions over Russia’s war in Ukraine, German officials had feared that the pipeline — the country’s main source of Russian gas, which recently has accounted for around a third of Germany’s gas supplies — might not reopen at all.
But the gas deliveries that were arriving still weren’t enough to resolve Europe’s energy crisis, and officials suspect that Russia is likely to disrupt supplies further. German Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck said the reduced supply “speaks a clear political language and confirms that we can’t rely on deliveries.”
The European Commission proposed this week that its 27 nations cut their gas use by 15 percent over the coming months as the bloc braces for a possible full Russian cutoff of gas supplies.
Germany and the rest of Europe are scrambling to fill gas storage in time for winter and reduce their dependence on Russian energy imports. Germany has Europe’s biggest economy; gas is important to power its industries, provide heating, and, to some extent, generate electricity.
Last month, the government activated the second phase of Germany’s three-stage emergency plan for natural gas supplies, warning that Europe’s biggest economy faced a “crisis” and winter storage targets were at risk. As of Thursday, Germany’s gas storage was 65.1 percent full.