Putin lost control of the European gas market. How the EU managed to diversify gas supply and prepare for the winter

September 08, 2022

Although Russia keeps the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline shut down, gas prices in the EU began to fall. The EU managed to diversify gas supply sources, and the share of the Russian gas in the European market fell to 9%.

On August 31, the Russian gas monopolist Gazprom completely stopped gas supply to Europe by the Nord Stream and started planned preventive works at a gas pumping unit. According to the plan, the repair was to be finished within a few days, and the gas pipeline — to be operational again on September 3.

However, on September 3, the gas pipeline was not re-started, this time — due to the detection of an oil leak during the inspection of gas pumping unit No. 24 at the Portovaya compressor station. As soon as on September 5, Putin's press secretary Sergey Peskov said that problems with the Nord Stream would persist until the EU lifts sanctions on Russia, which prevent Russians from servicing the gas pipeline.

Gas blackmail of the EU against the backdrop of the war in Ukraine has become commonplace, and the very story with the turbine at the Portovaya compressor station has been going on for several months. Even before the beginning of the war, Russia regularly reduced gas supply to the EU and made public statements to heat up the European energy market.

However, after the recent news about the continued stoppage of gas supply by Nord Stream-1, prices did not react with the usual increase, but on the contrary, began to decrease. As of September 7, the gas price at the Dutch TTF exchange is $2,338 per thousand cubic meters, after exceeding $3,000 at the end of August.

This happened mainly due to the loss of the position on the European gas market, which Russia had at the beginning of the war. According to the European Commission, if on the eve of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the Russians supplied the EU with 40% of all imported gas, at the beginning of September, their share made 9%.

Of course, the European gas market is deficient, and energy prices in the EU are excessively high, but EU storages are more than 80% full, and Europe as a whole managed to do the impossible and prepare for the winter. So if Putin had a lever of economic pressure on the European Commission, now all these levers became useless.

Despite the reduction of the Russian gas supply, the EU managed to diversify this volume from other sources — in particular, with the purchase of liquefied natural gas from the USA, North African countries and Azerbaijan. Of course, winter is still ahead and a lot will depend on the weather, but the European Commission managed to avoid the most negative scenario and prepare for the winter.

The EU has gas reserves for 2.5 months

Former PR director of Naftogaz, now — Razumkov Center expert Maksym Bielawski says that the record-high gas prices of the end of August were primarily caused by the information and psychological factor, which the European Commission has managed to counter, also informing the population in the first place.

"I believe that gas prices in the EU will remain in the corridor of 1.5 thousand dollars per thousand cubic meters. Of course, there is a risk of further growth, as gas will be taken from storage during the heating season. This fact will be used by the Russian propaganda, drawing attention to the so-called "exhaustion of gas storages", the expert says.

According to him, the EU should ensure the so-called parallel operation of storage facilities, that is, simultaneous gas injection and withdrawal, if the technical specifications of individual storage facilities allow.

Bielawski says that Italy now looks the most vulnerable and dependent on Russian gas supplies, as it has not given up supplies from Russia and continues to receive it via the TurkStream.

"Judging by the activities of the governments of Italy, France and Spain, interconnector capacities from the Spanish gas transmission system to the French GTS will be expanded. Similar project works are planned between Italy and France. In general, Italy faces the greatest risk of cessation of supply to the European gas market. It will be possible to settle the situation on the Italian gas market by transferring blue fuel from the Spanish LNG terminals via France to Italy. Most likely, such a mechanism will be implemented already at the beginning of 2023", — says Bielawski.

According to him, gas can also be supplied to Italy from Algeria via the Trans-Mediterranean pipeline, which goes from the Algerian hub Hassi R’Mel via Sicily to continental Italy. This gas pipeline is not loaded at full capacity and is subject to negotiation.

"At the same time, we should pay attention to the activity of Russian diplomats on the African continent. Russia is now doing everything all it can to slow down the development of cooperation of African countries with Italy and Spain," Bielawski stressed.

According to his words, despite Russia's actions, European countries managed to fill their gas storages, as planned. In Italy, gas storages are 83% full, in Germany — 95%. In the first days of September, they managed to additionally pump 1% of the total capacities of European gas stations.

"They have the reserves, and in case of a complete stoppage of gas supply from all sources, including Russia, to Germany and Italy, gas reserves will be enough for about 2.5 months, taking into account the temperature factor. No problems are expected during the heating season both in the EU and in Ukraine. In Ukraine, risks are mainly associated with the full-scale invasion of the Russian army," says Bielawski.



Maksym Bielawski

Leading Expert, Energy Programmes

Born in 1986 in Zhytomyr oblast


Zhytomyr State Technological University (2008)

Ph.D in Technical Science (2010)

Ivano-Frankivsk National Technical University of Oil and Gas (2012)

Author of 17 patents and 100 scientific works

Work Experience:

2008 – 2011 — Operator of Gas Infrastructure Units, Controller of Gas Transmission System in Rivne Division of PJSC "Ukrtransgas"

2011 – 2017 — Leading Engineer, Deputy Head of Press-Service, Head of Public Relation Department of PJSC "Ukrtransgas"

2017 – 2018 — HR Director of PJSC "Maine Gas Pipelines of Ukraine", Advisor to the Minister of Energy and Coal Industry of Ukraine

2021 — Director of Integrated Communications of NJSC "Naftogaz of Ukraine"