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Europe will find it very difficult to refill its natural gas stockpiles ahead of next winter, Russian gas giant Gazprom said on Tuesday.
Filling the European gas storage to the levels from before the 2022/2023 winter could become “a non-trivial task” for European companies, Gazprom said on its Telegram social media account, Reuters reported.
“This will be very difficult to do, given the politically motivated decisions aimed at refusing to import Russian pipeline gas. The volume of gas available on the European market will be greatly affected by competition for LNG,” Gazprom said.
Shortly after the Russian invasion of Ukraine last year, Gazprom cut off or significantly reduced pipeline gas supply to many European Union members, demanding payment in rubles, with which many of the EU states refused to comply. Gazprom also reduced or stopped on several occasions gas supply via the Nord Stream pipeline to Germany, citing an inability to repair turbines due to the Western sanctions. The latest such halt to supply was just before the explosions on the Nord Stream pipelines in the Baltic Sea at the end of September.
At the end of the winter period, storage sites across the EU were 56.54% full as of April 16, according to data from Gas Infrastructure Europe. That’s well above the five-year average and the gas in storage levels at the end of the previous two winters.
Related: China’s Refinery Throughput Surges To Record High
Contrary to initial expectations, Winter 2022/2023 went surprisingly well, but the energy crisis isn’t over, and Europe is not out of the woods yet.
Despite short-term bearish factors and relatively low natural gas prices for the nearest months, the longer-dated futures of Europe’s benchmark prices have rallied in recent weeks, suggesting that the market is jittery about European gas supply for next winter. The nearest futures prices have been lingering around $46 (43 euros) per megawatt-hour (MWh) for weeks, as the winter ended, the weather turned warmer, and stockpiles at Europe’s gas storage sites are at their highest for an end to a winter period for a decade.
However, the December futures have rallied this month, suggesting continued concerns about refilling European storage ahead of next winter and uncertainty about France’s nuclear fleet availability.
By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com
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Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com