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The gas storage level rises to 99 percent – 3 risks remain

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The gas storage level rises to 99 percent – 3 risks remain

At the beginning of the heating season, the gas storage facilities in Germany are 99 percent full. Picture Alliance

At the beginning of the heating season, the gas storage facilities in Germany are full to the brim.

The level rose to 99 percent this week. This is already well above the legal target of 95 percent by November 1st.

The network agency assesses the starting position to be much better than before last winter. However, three risks remained for gas supplies and, above all, for gas prices.

The heating season since October 1st has started with mild weather. Gas consumption is correspondingly low, and the worries about gas prices and gas supplies that characterized Germany a year ago are correspondingly far away. The filling level of the gas storage facilities is very high. The replenishment of liquid gas is underway via three new terminals. The Federal Network Agency judges that the starting position is significantly better than a year ago. However, there remained three risks that gas prices could become an issue again in the winter.

First of all, the positive development: the filling level of the gas storage facilities in Germany rose to 99 percent this week. It is already well above the legal requirement of 95 percent for November 1st. That’s going out Data from the European Gas Storage Association GIE out. The exact fill level on Thursday was 98.89 percent.

The following graphic shows the difference to the crisis year of 2022. The current level (blue line) is at the upper edge of the levels in the pre-war years 2018 to 2021 (gray area).

Filling level of the gas storage tanks in comparison

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It is also clear how low the gas storage levels fell in the winter of 2021/22. Russia had partly operated storage facilities in Germany itself and let them run empty before the attack on Ukraine. Since the beginning of the war, Russia has used its gas first as a threat and then as a weapon. Russia gradually restricted gas supplies and completely shut off the gas tap to Germany on September 1, 2022.

A good year later the verdict is made Federal Network Agency: “The gas supply in Germany is stable. Security of supply is guaranteed. The starting position for the winter of 2023/24 is significantly better than a year ago, but residual risks remain. Economical gas consumption remains important.”

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Nevertheless, four weeks ago the network agency rehearsed an emergency, a gas shortage and the rationing of gas for companies. Ministries, federal and state authorities, line operators and several industrial companies took part in the exercise. A gas storage level of at least 95 percent is considered a prerequisite for sufficient supply in winter. However, the stored gas does not offer any guarantee. There are essentially three risks that gas could still become scarce and, above all, more expensive.

1. Risk: A long and cold winter

Gas consumption depends very much on the weather. Temperatures, but also factors such as wind and hours of sunshine play a role. A longer period with a cold, dark winter would cause gas consumption to rise sharply, despite all efforts to save money. This became clear when the gas storage levels fell sharply on a few cold days in December 2022.

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But initially there is no cold front in sight. On the contrary: the German Weather Service is predicting a “warmer than average winter,” said the head of the Federal Network Agency, Klaus Müller, to the FAZ.

2. Risk: Russia’s gas supplies to Southern Europe

Russia can once again use its gas as a weapon against Europe and thus against Germany. Many countries in eastern and southern Europe still obtain their natural gas predominantly from Russia. These include Austria, Italy and Hungary. The gas comes via two pipelines. One leads directly through Ukraine, another through the Black Sea. Both are war zones. If Russia restricts or stops deliveries, the affected countries would have to be supplied from Germany via the European energy network. Damage to the pipelines is also possible.

3. Risk: Damage to pipelines in the North and Baltic Seas

Europe, and therefore Germany, receives most of its natural gas via pipelines. The liquid gas terminals are important, but only an addition. However, the pipelines and associated infrastructure are vulnerable. Damage, be it through accidents, sabotage or open attacks, could lead to lower deliveries or, in the worst case, interrupt them completely. In late summer 2022, the Nord Stream 1 and 2 Baltic Sea pipelines were destroyed by explosions. The background is still not clear. And just on October 8th, a pipeline between Finland and Estonia and a data cable in the Baltic Sea were damaged by external influences. Finland attributes this to a freighter flying the Chinese flag that damaged the cables with its anchor.

The head of the network agency, Klaus Müller, continues to urge people to use gas sparingly despite the high filling level of the gas accumulators. In the first warm weeks of autumn there were even savings of 50 percent compared to the average of previous years. But the vow comes when it gets colder.

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