Russia shuts down Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline to Germany for 10-day repair amid European fears

The largest single pipeline carrying Russian gas to Germany begins annual maintenance today, with flows expected to stop for 10 days, but governments, markets and companies fear the shutdown may be extended due to the war in Ukraine.

The Nord Stream 1 pipeline transports 55 billion cubic meters of gas annually from Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea. Maintenance will take place from 11 to 21 July.

Last month, Russia cut flows to 40 percent of the pipeline’s total capacity, citing the delayed return of equipment maintained by Germany’s Siemens Energy in Canada.

Canada said over the weekend it would return a repaired turbine, but it also said it would extend sanctions against Russia’s energy sector.

Europe fears Russia will extend scheduled maintenance to further curtail European gas supplies, shattering plans to fill storage for the winter and exacerbating a gas crisis that has led to emergency measures from governments and painfully high bills for consumers.

German Economy Minister Robert Habeck has said the country must face the possibility that Russia will suspend gas flows through Nord Stream 1 outside the planned maintenance window.

“Based on the pattern we’ve seen, it wouldn’t be very surprising now if a small, technical detail is found and they could say, ‘Now we can’t turn it on anymore,'” he said at an event the end of June.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov rejected claims that Russia was using oil and gas to exert political pressure, saying the maintenance shutdown was a regular, scheduled event and no one was “inventing” repairs.

A map showing the Nord Stream 2 pipelines from Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea.
A map showing the Nord Stream 2 pipelines from Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea.ABC News: Jarrod Fankhauser

There are other major pipelines from Russia to Europe, but flows have gradually declined, especially after Ukraine shut down a gas transit route in May and blamed it for interference by Russian forces.

Russia has completely stopped gas supplies to a number of European countries that did not meet the requirement for payment in rubles.

“The past few months have shown one thing: Putin knows no taboos,” said Timm Kehler, director of the German trade association Zukunft Gas.

“A complete cessation of gas supply through the Nord Stream pipeline can therefore not be ruled out.”

Abrupt gas shutdown could cost billions of dollars

Germany last weekend welcomed Canada’s decision to issue a “time-limited and revocable permit” allowing the return of equipment for the Nord Stream 1 pipeline.

But Ukraine’s energy and foreign ministries said in a statement they were “deeply disappointed” and urged Canada to reverse a decision they said amounted to adjusting sanctions against Moscow “to the whims of Russia”.

A team of people retrieves a body from a building damaged in a military attack
Some in Europe fear that the war in Ukraine will further affect gas prices.Reuters: Gleb Garanich

Siemens Energy said it was working on further formal approvals and logistics to get the equipment in place as soon as possible.

Zongqiang Luo, a gas analyst at consultancy Rystad Energy, said it was “not impossible” that Gazprom could use any delay as a justification for extending the maintenance period.

In previous years, the annual maintenance period on Nord Stream 1 lasted about 10-12 days and ended on time.

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