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The Wall Street Journal: Russia to halt natural gas flows to Europe for pipeline maintenance again

Russian state-owned energy exporter Gazprom PJSC said it would shut down the Nord Stream natural-gas pipeline to Germany for three days of maintenance later this month. 

The unexpected move amps up pressure on Germany and much of Europe to fill gas reserves and stave off widespread rationing to keep its population warm through the long continental winter—and avert factory shutdowns.

Moscow has already throttled back deliveries over the pipeline—its main gas link to Europe—to 20% of its maximum capacity, citing technical issues with its turbines. German and European officials have dismissed these explanations and have called the gas cuts an economic attack in retaliation for supporting Ukraine in its war with Russia.

Gazprom said Friday that the maintenance would take place between Aug. 31 and Sept. 2 and if no faults are discovered, it would restore the flows at the current rate.

Gas prices in Europe, trading at record highs, rose even further on the news, with futures for gas at a trading hub in the Netherlands, the benchmark in northwest Europe, jumping more than 5%.

The energy source is used to fire electricity plants, heat homes and run factories, smelters and fertilizer plants. If Russia stops the gas over winter, Europe’s fragile economy will likely plunge into recession, analysts and officials have warned. Soaring prices for electricity forced some industrial operations in Europe to announce shutdowns this week, including energy-intensive metal forging operations.

The temporary closure was not previously announced and comes just weeks after the 760-mile-long Nord Stream pipeline—which connects Russia’s prolific Siberian gas fields with Germany under the Baltic Sea—was shut for 10 days of annual maintenance. 

First opened in 2011, Nord Stream has a capacity of 55 billion cubic meters a year, enough to cover around 10% of the European Union’s annual consumption.

Before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the European Union imported about 40% of its gas from Russia. Governments across Europe are trying to secure gas from other suppliers, including Norway, Algeria, the U.S. and Qatar, which often comes in the form of liquefied natural gas transported by ship.


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