State-owned energy company Gazprom announced Friday that a major Russian natural gas pipeline will shut down for three days of maintenance at the end of this month, adding to economic pressure on Germany and other fuel-dependent European countries. To supply the industry with energy, generate electricity and heat homes.
The latest shutdown will come a month after Gazprom restored natural gas supplies through the pipeline to just a fifth of its capacity after the previous shutdown for maintenance.
Russia blamed the pipeline cuts on technical problems, but Germany described the shutdown as a political move by the Kremlin to sow uncertainty and raise prices amid the conflict in Ukraine.
Natural gas prices rose on Friday after the announcement, and are now more than double what they were a year ago.
In a statement posted online, Gazprom said the planned shutdown from August 31 to September 2 is for “routine maintenance” at a major pressure station along the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, which connects western Russia and Germany.
Natural gas prices rose after Russia reduced or halted natural gas flows to a dozen European Union countries, raising inflation and increasing the risk of Europe sliding into recession.
The German Economy Ministry said in an email to The Associated Press that it had taken note of Gazprom’s planned discontinuation of Nord Stream 1.
“We are monitoring the situation in close cooperation with the Federal Network Agency,” which regulates gas markets, the ministry said. Gas flows through Nord Stream 1 are currently unchanged at 20%.
The newly announced maintenance shutdown raises additional concerns that Russia may cut off gas altogether in a bid to gain political leverage over Europe as it tries to increase storage levels for the winter.
Germany recently announced that its gas storage facilities have reached 75% of capacity, two weeks ahead of the September 1 target date. The Germans have now been urged to cut back on gas use. So the country will have enough for next winter.
Once the work is complete, Gazprom said, gas flow through Nord Stream 1 will resume at its previous level of 33 million cubic metres, or just 20% of the pipeline’s capacity.
Gazprom said the routine maintenance will be carried out jointly with Siemens specialists, referring to its German partner Siemens Energy.
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