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Gas storage tanks are being tapped again



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The pipeline failure is at the expense of saves. France also gets gas from Germany because of the standstill of nuclear power plants.

How much goes in, how much out? A natural gas underground gas storage facility in Bavaria Photo: Frank Hoermann/SVEN SIMON/imago

The filling level of the natural gas storage facilities in Germany is falling slightly again. Since the middle of the week, after several months of storage, natural gas has been withdrawn to a small extent for the first time, as the Federal Network Agency announced on Thursday. The reason: the Nord Stream 1 pipeline has been under maintenance since July 11 and has been completely out of order since then. This step was announced; the annual maintenance work is scheduled to last until July 21st.

Since mid-March, Germany has been able to increase the level of its gas storage tanks from 24 percent to 64.5 percent. Germany is currently doing quite well compared to the previous year, when the storage facilities were only 45 percent full at the same time. However, it is unclear whether gas will flow to Germany again via Nord Stream 1 after July 21. In its situation report, the Federal Network Agency wrote on Thursday that the situation was “tense” and that “a deterioration cannot be ruled out”.

The shortage of natural gas has led to rising prices on the European markets. Natural gas for delivery next winter is currently being traded for around 180 euros per megawatt hour. A year ago the price was around 23 euros.

However, this eightfold increase in the wholesale price has had a somewhat muted impact on households because other price components of the retail price are more stable. Nevertheless, the increased wholesale prices will reach the end consumer. The President of the Federal Network Agency, Klaus Müller, has already warned that gas prices for consumers will triple in the coming year.

Saving energy becomes inevitable

This means that saving energy is not only unavoidable for financial reasons, but also for security of supply. On Thursday, two institutes of the Fraunhofer Society and the TU Berlin published a joint report. This shows that if Russian natural gas imports cease, the European gas network will only be able to cover 75 percent of the demand in the coming winter that existed last winter.

This deficit is “due to infrastructure”: Even with sufficient availability of natural gas, there are no liquefied natural gas terminals (LNG terminals) and pipelines to land and distribute the gas in Europe. After all, savings are already being made in Germany: since the beginning of the year, natural gas consumption has been more than 10 percent below the previous year’s figure, according to the industry association BDEW.

After the loss of Russia, the main importing countries are now Norway, the Netherlands and Belgium. However, Germany also exports natural gas to neighboring countries or routes it through – most recently to the Czech Republic, Austria, Poland and Switzerland.

Natural gas from Germany also recently flowed to France via the border crossing point in Medelsheim in the Saarland. According to figures from the industry association BDEW, it was 1.7 billion kilowatt hours last month. For classification: The current storage level in Germany is around 156 billion kilowatt hours.

More electricity from natural gas in France

France is currently generating significantly more electricity from natural gas than usual. In the course of July, the share of natural gas power plants in the French electricity mix was 8.6 percent compared to 3.5 percent in the same month last year. The background is the failure of numerous nuclear power plants due to maintenance work and technical problems. A lack of cooling water is now also exacerbating the situation.

On Thursday, the French nuclear power plants together only had a generation capacity of 26 gigawatts. This meant that only 42 percent of the power plant capacity was available. Observers are already anticipating that annual reactor production in 2022 could fall to its lowest level in three decades.

But not only natural gas is currently flowing from Germany to France, but also electricity. In the most recent half-yearly report, France purchased electricity from Germany on balance for the first time: a good 2 billion kilowatt hours flowed to France in the last six months.

The background to the electricity exports is obvious: In France, the wholesale electricity price level has been significantly higher than in Germany for months due to the failure of the nuclear power plants that dominate the market there. So traders like to buy electricity in Germany, where a megawatt hour has traded on the electricity exchange for an average of EUR 192 since the beginning of the year – compared to EUR 238 in France




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