The volume of natural gas in underground storage facilities in the European Union (EU) has reached a record high of nearly 98%, according to data released by Gas Infrastructure Europe (GIE) on Monday. Gas inventories across the EU and the UK have reached 1,114 terawatt-hours (TWh), surpassing the previous record of 1,102 TWh set in October 2019. The gas reservoirs in the EU are now 97.89% full, exceeding the bloc’s target of 90% by November 1 and providing some cushion for the upcoming heating season.
However, despite the high levels of gas in storage, liquefied natural gas (LNG) supplies to the region have remained at their lowest point in almost two years in October, as reported by the European gas operator association. This suggests that the EU is heavily reliant on alternative sources of natural gas to meet its demand.
One of the key suppliers of gas to the EU is Russia’s energy major Gazprom. Despite ongoing tensions with Ukraine, Gazprom continues to supply gas for transit to Western and Central Europe through the only remaining gas pumping station, Sudzha. As of October 17, the daily amount of gas being supplied through this route totals 42.5 million cubic meters. However, Ukraine has shut down another key gas transit route, the Sokhranovka station, citing interference by occupying forces. This station used to handle around a third of the Russian gas being supplied to the EU.
Before the start of the Ukraine conflict, Russia used to deliver about 155 billion cubic meters (bcm) of natural gas to the EU annually, primarily via pipelines. The conflict has disrupted these pipelines, leading to alternative measures being taken by the EU to secure its gas supplies.
In January, the head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, claimed that the EU had reduced its Russian gas imports by 80%. To compensate for the shortfall, the EU has increased its imports of high-priced LNG from the US and Qatar, as well as pipeline imports from Norway and Azerbaijan. However, Russian President Vladimir Putin pointed out that while his country has already found alternative markets for its gas, the EU still relies heavily on Russian gas and cannot fully cope without it. He emphasized that the physical volumes of gas that the EU is currently receiving from other exporters are insufficient to meet its demand.
The EU’s increasing reliance on alternative sources of gas highlights the importance of diversifying its energy supply and reducing dependence on any single supplier. It also underscores the need for investment in renewable energy sources to reduce dependence on fossil fuels altogether.
In conclusion, the EU’s underground storage facilities are currently at a record high capacity, indicating a sufficient cushion ahead of the heating season. However, the low levels of LNG supplies and the ongoing tensions in Ukraine highlight the challenges the EU faces in diversifying its gas supply. In order to ensure energy security, the EU must continue to explore alternative sources of energy and invest in renewable technologies.