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Energy controller accuses Russia of exacerbating gas crisis in Europe

The head of the International Energy Agency accused Russia of exacerbating the natural gas crisis in Europe

FRANKFURT, Germany – The head of the International Energy Agency accused Russia of exacerbating the natural gas crisis in Europe, saying on Wednesday that high prices and low storage levels were largely due to behavior of the public gas supplier Gazprom.

Russia could send up to a third of additional gas through existing pipelines, said Fatih Birol, executive director of the 30-member Paris organization that provides policy recommendations on affordable and sustainable energy. This would represent around 10% of European daily consumption – roughly what industry officials say would be needed to avoid a severe shortage in colder weather than expected.

“In terms of European gas (…) we believe that there are strong elements of tension in the European gas markets due to the behavior of Russia,” Birol told reporters.

“Unlike other proponents of the pipeline, such as Norway, Algeria and Azerbaijan, which are increasing their supplies to Europe, Gazprom reduced its exports to Europe by 25%” in the fourth quarter compared to a year ago “despite the high market prices”, he added. .

Russian President Vladimir Putin stressed that Gazprom had fulfilled its obligations under long-term contracts and blamed high spot gas prices on European decisions to move towards short-term volatile market prices. He also claimed that German gas customers were reselling Russian gas to Poland and Ukraine rather than serving the needs of their own market.

Other factors have contributed to Europe’s low gas reserves, including a cold winter last year, decreased energy from renewables and high summer demand for liquid gas shipments to Asia.

Pressed by journalists on the appeal, Birol resisted directly saying that Russia was using 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 excluded from NATO membership. He also wants German and European regulators to approve his new Nord Stream 2 pipeline that would bypass other countries and start shipping natural gas directly to Europe, but he faces opposition from Ukraine, the United Kingdom. Poland and the United States.

Birol replied: “I would also like to note that today’s weak Russian gas flows to Europe coincide with heightened geopolitical tensions over Ukraine. I just wanted to point out this coincidence.

Gas levels in underground storage – the primary means by which utilities meet increases in demand for heat and electricity – only reach 50% of their capacity, compared to the historical average of 70% at this time. stage of the year. This has pushed up the prices of natural gas, a business opportunity that Russian state supplier Gazprom has given up on.

“Price and supply uncertainty remains high with most of the heating season still ahead,” Birol said. He said supplies of liquid natural gas sent by ship were helping, but its timeliness was limited due to longer transport times.

He said Gazprom was responsible for much of the storage decline, with the company accounting for half of the shortfall in stored gas despite having only 10% of Europe’s storage capacity.

ABC News

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