Crisis on Europe’s gas market: IEA chief accuses Russia

As of: January 12th, 2022 3:54 p.m.

The head of the International Energy Agency blames Russia for the European gas crisis. The state-owned Gazprom group is largely to blame for the high prices and empty stores.

Fatih Birol, the head of the International Energy Agency (IEA), blames Russia for Europe’s energy crisis. He accused the country of reducing gas supplies to Europe at a time of “heightened geopolitical tensions”. This indicates that Moscow has provoked an energy crisis for political purposes.

“Russia could get up to a third more gas through existing pipelines,” said Fatih Birol, executive director of the Paris-based organization. That would correspond to around ten percent of European daily consumption – roughly the amount that, according to industry representatives, would be necessary to avoid a serious shortage in the event of a cold snap. Instead, Russia is deliberately emptying the storage facilities of the Russian Gazprom group on the continent in order to reinforce the impression of a shortage.

Exports cut by a quarter?

“The current storage deficit in the EU is largely due to Gazprom,” said Birol. He pointed out that the total level of storage is around 50 percent of capacity – compared to normally 70 percent in January. That is why Birol called on the European countries to build additional gas storage facilities. This is the only way to protect yourself from the influence of a country in the future.

“Unlike other pipeline operators like Norway, Algeria and Azerbaijan who are increasing their shipments to Europe, Gazprom cut its exports to Europe by 25 percent year-on-year in the fourth quarter,” Birol said in an online press conference.

Russia recently emphasized that the country had fulfilled all long-term gas supply contracts with Europe. Nevertheless, the utility Gazprom was repeatedly accused by politicians and experts of holding back deliveries since last year by restricting spot sales.

No approval for Nord Stream 2 yet

The IEA chief accuses Gazprom of using the empty gas storage facilities in Europe to exert political pressure on Western European countries. “I would like to note that today’s low Russian gas supplies to Europe coincide with heightened geopolitical tensions in Ukraine,” said Birol.

Russia has around 100,000 soldiers stationed near the Ukrainian border, while Moscow and the US are negotiating Ukraine’s future role. A bill to impose sanctions on the new Nord Stream 2 pipeline is expected to be voted on in the U.S. Senate this week. There is still no permit for the Baltic Sea pipeline, which is supposed to supply Germany with Russian gas.

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