Energy Wars: Russia cuts gas supply to Europe
Since the start of the Russian-Ukrainian War, sanctions, pipeline debates, and disruption of the gas supply have created an energy crisis between Russia and the EU.
Nord Stream 1 is a pipeline that stretches 1,200 km under the Baltic Sea. The pipeline starts from Vyborg near St. Petersburg and connects to Greifswald in Eastern Germany. It opened in 2011 and can send 170 million cubic meters daily to Germany. It was opened and operated by Nord Stream AG and the company’s majority shareholder is the Russian state-owned Gazprom.
In 2015, the second pipeline from Russia to Germany titled “Nord Stream 2” was announced. The construction of the pipeline was completed in September 2021 and was ready for use.
A few months later, after Russia recognized the independence of two separatist regions in Ukraine, the Luhansk and Donetsk People’s Republics, Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz halted the certification of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.
Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Gelsenkirchen-based football club Schalke 04 dropped the sponsorship by Gazprom. Gazprom had been the sponsor of the club since 2007 and the deal was set to continue until 2025 with the club receiving 9 Million Euros.
In June 2022, Russia cut gas deliveries through Nord Stream 1 by 75%, from 170 million cubic meters to 40 million cubic meters. Then, in July, it was shut down for 10 days, citing maintenance needs. In August, Germany’s Economy Minister Robert Habeck said that there were no technical issues and the pipeline was functional.
On September 2, Gazprom announced that during scheduled maintenance carried out jointly with Siemens, oil leakage was discovered at the main gas turbine at the compressor station. Gazprom claims that, according to Siemens, oil leakages in these engines can be only repaired at a specialized repair facility and until the operational defects are eliminated, gas transmission had been shut down. Before the start of the Russian-Ukrainian War, Germany got 55% of the gas imports from Russia, and it reduced to 35%, Germany also promised to end the imports completely.
According to Javier Blas, the energy and commodities columnist at Bloomberg, with this announcement Gazprom is trying to imply that since the turbine can only be repaired at one of the Siemens workshops overseas, the pipeline will not restart. He says, in order words, it is down for good.
Wolfgang Kubicki, deputy chairman of the neoliberal Free Democrat Party (FDP) received severe criticism after suggesting that the Nord Stream 2 pipeline should be opened. He said that Germany should open the pipeline to fill the gas reserves for the winter and that there was not any sensible reason not to do so. He added that if the gas reserves are full, then Germany can close Nord Stream 2 again, and if Germany becomes independent of Russian gas, then they can close the other pipelines.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba responded to the suggestion of Kubicki. He said on Twitter that launching Nord Stream 2 for a little while and closing it later is totally irrational. He compared the suggestion of using Nord Stream 2 for the last time to drug addiction. He said that addicts also use drugs by saying “just one last time” and that addiction to Russian gas kills.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, during his regular address on Saturday, said that Russia is trying to increase the energy pressure on Europe more and the reason why Russia is stopping the gas through Nord Stream is to destroy the normal life of Europeans. He added that Russia is trying to attack the places they can not attack with missiles with poverty and political chaos. He said that European countries need more unity, coordination, and help from each other.
As a set of energy-saving measures, the German government aims to reduce gas usage by 2%. Starting from September, heating will be reduced in public buildings except for hospitals. Public monuments and buildings will not be illuminated for aesthetic reasons. For example, Brandenburg Gate in Berlin did not have lights on in July. Private swimming pool heating could be banned and for passenger trains, coal and oil will be given priority.
EU Member states have agreed to reduce 15% of gas usage between August and March. The EU said that they aim to save gas for winter since Russia is using energy supplies as a weapon. Some countries not connected to the EU's gas pipelines will be exempt, such as Ireland, Malta, and Cyprus. The Baltic countries are also exempt since they are not connected to the EU for their electricity system.
Kadri Simson, the European Commissioner for Energy said that even if all exemptions to ration were used, the EU would still have to reduce demand for gas to safely go through the winter. She also mentioned work to boost alternative gas supplies from Azerbaijan, the US, Canada, Norway, Egypt, and Israel.