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Europe’s costly mission to replenish gas storage

27/4/2022

6 min read

Aerial view of Rehden storage site in Germany Photo: Astora
The Rehden storage site in Germany, able to hold 3.9bn m3 of working gas, is said to be the biggest gas storage facility in Western Europe

Photo: Astora

After breathing a sigh of relief at the mild winter just gone by, Europe’s utilities are now setting their sights on next winter’s gas supply. With sanctions against Russia threatening a deepening of the energy crisis, energy companies are desperate to refill gas storage sites to provide sufficient back-up supplies in case of an unusually cold 2022/2023 winter or, even worse, an interruption to Russian pipeline gas. But, considering unfavourable market prices, how likely is it that storage tanks will be sufficiently filled when the next gas year starts? Energy journalist Karolin Schaps reports.

Last autumn’s gas price spike – preceding Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – meant that European gas storage levels were unusually low at the start of last winter’s heating season. Over the course of the winter, stocks were dangerously close to dropping to the lowest ever level, but mild weather helped avoid a catastrophic scenario. Fast forward a few months, the energy crisis has worsened with retaliations against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine threatening to spiral into a full-blown gas supply disaster. 

 

Russia provides more than 40% of European gas needs, a dependence which the European Union (EU) has now vowed to cut by two thirds by the end of this year. 

 

Although European countries are investing heavily in renewable energy in a bid to cut carbon emissions by at least 55% below 1990 levels by the end of this decade, various EU member states, such as Germany and Slovakia, have thrown their weight behind natural gas as a bridging fuel. The European Commission (EC) has even proposed labelling certain gas-fired power plants as ‘green’ in order to qualify for sustainable financing. These signals show that gas will remain an integral part of Europe’s future energy landscape.

 

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