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Snowless Winter Could Create Worse Energy Crisis For Europe

Demand for liquified natural gas (LNG) vessels has declined due to Europe’s war winter, but natural weather conditions could ground vessels completely, meteorologists warn in a Reuters report, citing lack of snow that will lead to lower river water levels in key waterways. 

While the uncommonly mild winter has reduced heating demand in Europe, saved storage volumes, and paved the way for the continent to avoid a energy crisis as a result of Russia’s war on Ukraine, looking further ahead, the same weather conditions could be disastrous for LNG. 

Meteorologists cited by Reuters warn that the region relying on the Rhine and Danube rivers in particular is at risk of drought, which would make it difficult for vessels to navigate later this year.

Average temperatures in Germany are 25% warmer than normal since September, based on Refinitiv data cited by Reuters. 

The combination of low snow and a drier 2022 has already hit hydro power production, with Refinitiv noting that France saw 41% lower hydro power production last year, based on long-term averages. France is also threatened this year (as it was in 2023) with higher river water temperatures that prevent it from access to cooling water for nuclear reactors–a main source of energy for the country. 

For power producers, the low snow totals come on the back of a drier-than-normal 2022, and leave hydropower production potential sharply below normal in several key countries. For Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Austria and the Danube region, a lack of rainfall is expected to hinder clean energy production this year.

In 2022, the Rhine and the Danube also experienced dry conditions at strategic points that prevented energy vessels from navigating them.  

According to Yale Environment360, last summer,the Danube was flowing at less than half its usual volume, with cargo barges grounded, waiting in line for a single channel that remained deep enough to traverse. 

By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com

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