Storage operators optimistic: gas shortage unlikely in winter

Status: 11/18/2022 1:07 p.m

If there aren’t extremely low temperatures this winter, there will be enough gas: That’s what the operators of the gas storage facilities in Germany are assuming. In a model calculation, they ran through several scenarios.

The operators of the gas storage facilities in Germany are optimistic about the coming months: the country will “get through the winter well,” they said in Berlin. Theoretically, gas shortages “cannot yet be completely ruled out” – but given the current weather forecasts, such shortages are “extremely unlikely”.

The storage facilities could also be “extensively” filled again for the coming winter. This is primarily dependent on LNG imports to Europe. The current 14 storage facility operators are united in the Energy Storage Initiative (Ines). According to their own statements, they represent more than 90 percent of German gas storage capacities and are currently also developing underground hydrogen storage facilities.

Scenarios for a mild, normal or severe winter

Ines calculated three scenarios for the gas supply this winter and next – the first scenario is based on “normal” temperatures as in winter 2016 in Europe, the second “warm” temperatures as in 2020 and the third “cold” as in winter 2010. The basis is the fill levels on November 1st – when the storage tanks were 99 percent full.

With warm temperatures – plus 4.5 degrees Celsius as a monthly average in January – the fill level in March would be 57 percent; at cold temperatures – minus 4.6 degrees Celsius – it would be almost zero by the end of January. The government’s target of a filling level of 40 percent by February is correspondingly “challenging” in cold temperatures, explained Ines.

Liquefied natural gas relieves in the coming year

With a view to the next winter of 2023/2024, the initiative is making further assumptions: Liquefied natural gas (LNG) will then be available to the EU internal market “on a large scale” – the operators also refer to the new LNG terminals that are currently being built in Germany and are scheduled to go into operation in January.

According to the model calculation, there is also gas from France and from Norway via the Baltic Pipe – and also from Russia, namely via Ukraine, Turkey and Lithuania. Another assumption is that consumption has already fallen considerably this year, regardless of the temperature. According to Ines, the filling of the reservoirs before the next winter depends above all on the filling levels that occur after this winter. “Achieving the filling targets (85 percent in October and 95 percent in November) is quite possible.”

Wintershall Dea: Gas supply more likely to be a problem in winter 2023/24

Wintershall Dea boss Mario Mehren is also confident. “If it doesn’t get extremely cold now and companies and households in Europe comply with the requests to be economical, then we can certainly get through this winter,” said the CEO of the German oil and gas group to the “Handelsblatt”.

However, he is far more skeptical about the winter of 2023/24 than the gas storage operators: “This year, Europe received 75 billion cubic meters of gas up to July. That is about half of what Europe imported from Russia before the war.” This amount may not be available in Europe in the coming year. In addition, he expects – in contrast to Ines – that the memory, which is currently full, will then be relatively empty.

Criticized for dealing in Russia

Since the beginning of the Russian war against Ukraine, Wintershall Dea has been criticized for sticking to its Russian business. There is no new business. “But the only way we could withdraw from Russia would be to donate our activities to the Russian state,” Mehren said. The assets in Russia are around 2.5 billion euros.

Mehren admitted to underestimating Russian President Vladimir Putin. “In retrospect, of course, one has to say that we and I didn’t understand at the latest in 2014/2015, after the annexation of Crimea, how dangerous Russia and Putin are.” Even after the annexation of Crimea, he did not think a war of aggression in the middle of Europe was possible. “From today’s perspective, that was a mistake. We greatly underestimated the dangers of Putin’s Russia.”

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