Saturday’s scheduled resumption of operations for the Nord Stream 1 natural gas pipeline has been put on hold. Perhaps indefinitely. Gazprom, the Russian energy firm in charge of gas exports via pipeline announced it has discovered faults during a three-day maintenance period that commenced on Wednesday. An oil leak at the Portovaya compressor station is being blamed as the main culprit. Gazprom has not given an estimate on when gas exports will resume. “Until the issues on the operation of the equipment are resolved, gas supplies to the Nord Stream gas pipeline have been completely stopped,” Gazprom said in a statement Friday.
It is not clear whether the pipeline is indeed suffering from maintenance issues or if this is simply the next stage of energy brinkmanship currently underway between Russia and Europe. The timing of the shutdown is suspicious as it comes on the day G-7 nations agreed to impose a price cap on Russian oil to minimize Moscow’s ability to finance the war in Ukraine, and simultaneously act as a hedge on global inflation.
Germany is most anxious over Nord Stream 1. Despite efforts to obtain energy independence from Moscow, efforts by Berlin to secure other natural gas sources have not met with rapid success. Progress is being made, however not at the pace Germany was hoping. Therefore, with Nord Stream 1 closing down, the possibility of an energy crisis through the winter months now becomes a stark possibility.
Germany continues to say that the nation is well prepared to cope with a disruption in natural gas supplies. Over the last month the government has boasted about its preparations and growing amount of gas in storage. However, for the stored natural gas to last through the entire winter, usage might need to be limited. This will have a direct effect on the German economy and its population.