Prague — Russia reduced natural gas to Europe again on Friday. This includes halving the flow to Italy, Slovakia, and France altogether.
This is the third day in Europe, which has also hit Germany and Austria, with significant reductions in the fuel that powers and produces electricity for industry. It has further boosted the already high energy prices that are driving record inflation in the European Union.
Russia condemns technical issues regarding the reduction of the major Nord Stream 1 pipeline serving Germany and France, saying that equipment under refurbishment in Canada is stagnant due to western sanctions rice field. German and Italian leaders called the cut a political move, escalating European energy tensions following Russia’s previous cutoff of natural gas to Poland, Bulgaria, Finland, the Netherlands and Denmark.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Friday that the cut was “blackmail to both individual countries and Europe as a whole.”
Russia has told Slovakia’s state-owned gas company SPP that it will cut deliveries to the country by 50%, SPP director Richard Prokypcak told a meeting in Bratislava. The reason for the reduction has not been clarified.
Russia’s state-owned energy giant Gazprom will supply Italian gas company Eni on the same day with only 50% of the gas requested on Friday, making it one of Europe’s largest Russian gas importers on the third day. He said he would reduce it.
Gazprom reduced the deliveries requested by Italy on Wednesday by 15%. ANSA news agency reported that a Russian company dropped it by 35 percent on Thursday. Italy gets 40% of its gas from Russia, but has been working to find alternative sources in countries like Algeria.
And France no longer receives natural gas from Russia. French gas network operator GRT Gaz said Russia’s supply via Germany stopped Wednesday after a 60% drop in the first five months of the year.
Operators said on Friday that gas supply interruptions are not expected this summer, partly due to increased shipments via Spain, despite Russia’s supply cuts. France usually gets about 17% of its natural gas from Russia, but the overall gas is a relatively small part of France’s energy mix, about 16%.
According to German Ministry of Economy spokesman Stephen Gabriel Hauff, the reduction in supply to France was a “known result of a reduction in gas supply via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline.” He didn’t know the details of the specific reason for the cut.
Russia said Canadian sanctions prevented German partner Siemens Energy from delivering the equipment sent there for overhaul. The German government said maintenance should not be an issue until the fall, and Russia’s decision meant raising uncertainty and pushing up prices.
Italy’s Prime Minister Mario Draghi said in Kieu, the capital of Ukraine, “we, Germany and others claim it is a lie. There is a political use of gas.”
In Slovakia, Prokypcak has downplayed the impact of the reduction, despite “completely shutting down in the face of real risks (supply from Russia),” CTK news agency said.
The day before, the reduction reached 10% on Wednesday and 34% on Thursday. To diversify its supply, Slovakia recently signed a contract with Norway to receive gas from the North Sea via Germany and liquefied gas from other countries.
Economic Minister Richard Slick said the New Deal would reduce Russia’s dependence on gas by 65%. Prior to the deal, Slovakia received 85 percent of the gas from Russia.
Slovakia consumes about one-third of the country’s annual gas storage and planned to store enough gas in the winter by July 10.
Austrian oil and gas company OMV said Thursday that Gazprom announced a decline in supply but did not specify how much.
The European Union is trying to reduce gas imports from Russia by two-thirds by the end of the year and is beginning to fill that gap with liquid gas imported from the United States. However, an explosion and fire at a major U.S. export facility in Freeport, Texas, took one-fifth of U.S. gas export capacity offline, highlighting concerns about vulnerabilities in Europe’s gas supply. ..
Short-term natural gas prices on Friday remained high at € 126 per MW of gas futures last month. It has increased by about 50 percent since Monday.
Gas prices fell at the end of the winter heating season, providing some relief to European utilities scrambling to replenish enough underground storage to survive the next winter.
By Karel Janicek