Gazprom says key gas pipeline to Europe will shut down for ‘routine maintenance’

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A key pipeline conveying Russian natural gas to Europe will shut down for three days at the end of this month to undergo “routine maintenance,” Russia’s state-owned energy company Gazprom said Friday.

In a statement posted online, Gazprom said that the only operational turbine at a key compressor station along the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, which links western Russia and Germany, will shut down for routine maintenance from August 31 to September 2.

“A set of routine maintenance in accordance with the current maintenance contract will be carried out jointly with Siemens specialists,” the company said, in a reference to its German partner, Siemens Energy.

Gazprom said that, once work is completed, the flow of gas through Nord Stream 1 will resume at its prior level of 33 million cubic meters, or just 20 per cent of the pipeline’s nominal capacity.

Natural gas prices have surged as Russia has reduced or cut off natural gas flows to a dozen European Union countries, fuelling inflation and raising the risk that Europe could plunge into recession.

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European Union countries have agreed to a proposal to voluntarily cut their gas consumption by 15 per cent this winter. This deal comes after Gazprom, Russia’s state-owned energy corporation, said it would further cut gas flows through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to Germany.

Germany’s Economy Ministry said in an email to The Associated Press that it had taken note of Gazprom’s planned downtime for Nord Stream 1.

“We are monitoring the situation in close cooperation with the Federal Network Agency that regulates gas markets,” the ministry said. “Gas flows through Nord Stream 1 are currently unchanged at 20 per cent.”

Flows of natural gas through Nord Stream 1 have been contentious. This latest shutdown will come a month after Gazprom restored natural gas supply through the pipeline to only a fifth of its capacity after an earlier shut-off for maintenance.

Russia has blamed the reductions through the pipeline on technical problems, but Germany calls them a political move to sow uncertainty and push up prices amid the conflict in Ukraine.

The newly announced maintenance shut-off raises additional fears that Russia could completely cut off gas that is used to power industry, generate electricity and heat homes to try to gain political leverage over Europe as it tries to boost its storage levels for winter.

Germany recently announced that its gas storage facilities had reached 75 per cent capacity, two weeks before the target date of Sept. 1. Germans have been urged to cut gas use now so the country will have enough for the winter ahead.



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