Are diminished gas flows from Russia a warning?

Ukraine - Russia crisis
Source: DollarPhotoClub

Last week Poland and Slovakia informed the European Commission that they had seen a reduction in daily gas flows from Russia. At the time it was not clear whether the cuts were caused by commercial or technical reasons.

According to EurActiv, some European officials now believe Moscow could use disruptions to the gas deliveries on which Europe depends as its trump card in a confrontation over Ukraine.

Russian oil and gas giant Gazprom issued a statement saying it was pumping gas to all destinations “according to the resources available for exports and for the continuing pumping to storage facilities in the Russian Federation”. The company, however, did not deny that the levels of supply this week to Poland were lower than they were previously.

Last week, PGNiG, Poland’s largest, state-owned gas producer and distributor, noticed that Russian gas flows to Poland via Ukraine and Belarus fell by 45 percent. Slovakia noticed their supplies diminish by 10 percent, while German energy company E.ON also experienced reductions in supply but refused to provide exact numbers. E.ON’s spokesman said the reductions were “not alarming due to well-stocked reserves and sufficient availability on hubs.”

EurActive noticed that the disruption appeared to affect the Yamal Europe route only – going through Poland and into Germany – with no significant reduction reported in volumes being shipped along other routes.

When asked about the reduced gas supplies to Poland, Pawel Poprawa of the Institute for Energy Studies in Warsaw told EurActiv that the cuts in supply of Russian gas is ‘a warning signal for the EU not to go any further with the sanctions.’

However, cutting off gas supplies from Gazprom would also hit Gazprom. Especially now, when international sanctions make funding more difficult. Also, as EurActiv pointed out, turning off the taps is technically difficult. It is impossible to severely scale back extraction volumes at Gazprom’s fields, nor could such huge amounts of gas be safely flared off.

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