Russia resumes critical gas supplies to Europe via Nord Stream 1

The pipeline under the Baltic Sea had been shut since July 11 to undergo annual maintenance, amid fears of a permanent halt in retaliation for Western sanctions.

Pipes at the landfall facilities of the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline in Lubmin, Germany.
The Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline delivers critical supplies to Europe through Germany [File: Hannibal Hanschke/Reuters]

Russia has reopened the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline after 10 days of stopping critical supplies to Europe through Germany,

The Nord Stream 1 pipeline under the Baltic Sea had been shut since July 11 to undergo annual maintenance.

The head of Germany’s network regulator, Klaus Mueller, said Russia’s Gazprom had notified deliveries on Thursday of only about 30 percent of the pipeline’s capacity. He later tweeted that actual deliveries were above that amount and could reach the pre-maintenance level of some 40 percent.

That wouldn’t be enough to resolve Europe’s energy crisis. “The political uncertainty and the 60 percent reduction from mid-June unfortunately remain,” Mueller wrote on Twitter.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin had indicated that gas shipments via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline would restart as soon as maintenance was complete, but also warned that flows may be limited unless a dispute over sanctioned parts is resolved.

Gazprom cut flows to Germany via the vital Nord Stream 1 pipeline by some 40 percent last month, blaming the absence of a Siemens gas turbine that was undergoing repairs in Canada.

The German government rejected Gazprom’s explanation and feared that Moscow would not reopen the pipeline after the scheduled work, in retaliation for Western sanctions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The European Commission on Wednesday urged European Union countries to reduce demand for natural gas by 15 percent over the coming months to secure winter stocks and defeat Russia’s “blackmail”.

Announcing an emergency plan, EU commissioners also asked member states to give Brussels special powers to impose compulsory energy rationing if Russia cuts off Europe’s gas lifeline.

“Russia is blackmailing us,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told reporters.

“Russia is using energy as a weapon and therefore, in any event, whether it’s a partial major cut-off of Russian gas or total cut-off … Europe needs to be ready.”

A total shutdown of imports or a sharp reduction in the flow from east to west could have a catastrophic effect on the European economy, shutting factories and forcing households to turn down the heat.

Last year, Russia accounted for some 40 percent of the EU’s total gas imports and any further disruption to supply would also push consumer prices higher and raise the risk of a deep recession.

The pipeline restart came after comments from Russia’s foreign minister showed the Kremlin’s goals had expanded during the five-month war.

Sergey Lavrov told state news agency RIA Novosti on Wednesday that Russia’s military “tasks” in Ukraine now go beyond the eastern Donbas region.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies