Report shows progress: will the gas storage tanks be full in autumn?

Germany does not want to and cannot do without Russian gas immediately.

Report shows progress: will the gas storage tanks be full in autumn?

Germany does not want to and cannot do without Russian gas immediately. In order not to be even more blackmailed in winter, it tries to fill up the stores until then, as long as Putin doesn't turn off the faucet. A monthly report will now show the progress the country is making.

Although it is unbearable for many people in view of the attack on Ukraine, natural gas continues to flow from Russia to Germany, which covers more than 50 percent of its needs. According to the Federal Network Agency, deliveries are "at the usual level, the declining flows from Nord Stream 1 follow market events and dealer behavior." Moscow alone is currently determining whether this will remain the case, and the closer winter approaches, the worse a delivery stop would hit Germany.

A law passed at the end of March therefore stipulates that the storage tanks must be 80 percent full by the beginning of October. It must be 90 percent at the beginning of November and at least 40 percent in February. The Science Media Center is now providing a monthly overview of the progress the operators are making and whether the goals set by the federal government can be achieved.

The gas storage facility in Rehden, Lower Saxony, plays a special role in the report because, with a capacity of 3.9 billion cubic meters, it alone holds a fifth of the gas volume stored in Germany or four percent in Europe. It is therefore particularly important to fill it up by late autumn.

That takes time. Because the Russian state-owned company Gazprom, which owned the storage facility until spring, has practically emptied it completely. The Federal Network Agency has been in charge since April and its President Klaus Müller announced that he would fill Rehden "with great energy and momentum".

However, the storage can store a maximum of 0.34476 terawatt hours (TWh) per day. It was therefore not only a question of supplying enough gas, but also of filling the storage facility at the maximum rate early enough. According to the report, this should have been done by the end of June at the latest in order to reach the November target. In fact, the gas has been flowing at almost maximum speed since the beginning of the month and the level has since risen from almost two to nine percent.

If this continues unchecked, the storage facility would be 100 percent full by the end of October. The 14-day maintenance work on Nord Stream 1, through which two-thirds of Russian natural gas currently flows to Europe, will probably change little. According to the report, around 0.25 TWh per day is sufficient to reach the 90 percent target in Rehden by November.

A buffer remains. If all other German storage facilities are completely filled, Rehden would only have to be at least 46 percent full by November 1st so that the total storage level in Germany is then 90 percent. At the current rate, this would already be the case in the second week of August.

In total there are more than 40 gas storage facilities in Germany, with a combined capacity of 237.3 TWh. By no means all of them were almost completely empty like Rehden in April. Jemgum in Ostfriesland, for example, with a maximum capacity of 8.13 TWh, had a low of almost 13 percent at the end of March and is now around 37 percent full again.

As the table shows, many storage facilities are already much fuller. The 20.6 TWh of the second largest German storage facility, the VGS Storage Hub (Bernburg, Bad Lauchstädt) in Saxony-Anhalt, is almost 78 percent full, the number 2 EWE gas storage facility (18.3 TWh) comes to 71.4 percent. A number of smaller locations with up to 3 TWh have already reached 90 percent or more.

German inventories are currently around 55 percent full. If the growth of the past seven days continued, they would be full by mid-September. However, the SMC does not consider this scenario to be likely. On the one hand, the upcoming maintenance work on Nord Stream 1 slowed down the filling, on the other hand, the growth in filling levels has always slowed down in the past in the summer months. Here, however, one could object that there has been no gas storage law that has put pressure on in recent years.

If one nevertheless assumes the average growth for the years 2012 to 2021, the goal of filling the storage facilities by at least 80 percent by the beginning of October would be achieved. At the beginning of November, however, they would only be 86 percent full.

However, the past has also shown that the reservoirs were filled more quickly in years in which they were severely emptied in the spring after severe winters. Although the reasons for empty levels were different, the development this year could be similar. In this scenario, the German storage facilities would already be more than 90 percent full by the beginning of October, and around 97 percent a month later.

Europe is also making good progress overall, excluding German stocks, the EU storage facilities are currently around 51 percent full. Even Poland and Bulgaria, which are no longer supplied by Russia, don't seem to have any problems.

At 27 percent, Bulgaria has practically the same filling level as in the previous year. Poland stopped withdrawing gas at the start of the invasion and has now even filled its storage facilities to almost 97 percent. Last year, that was only in October.

There is a question mark over the Ukrainian storage facilities, which can hold around 324 TWh and are only 18 percent full. However, it is unclear to what extent the Ukrainian storage facilities are used for domestic needs or for export, and how high the country's gas needs were in peacetime, writes the SMC.

"Nevertheless, it's worth keeping an eye on Ukraine's storage facilities and gas suppliers: should the war last into winter and beyond, as some experts suspect, it might be necessary to shore up the country's gas supplies from the EU . The storage facilities in Germany would then also be in demand."

The SMC emphasizes that all scenarios presented are based on gas continuing to flow as before. "We don't know if and when gas will stop coming from Russia," Torsten Frank told Wirtschaftswoche newspaper. He is Managing Director of Trading Hub Europe (THE), which, as so-called market area manager, is responsible for filling the storage facilities.

Supply from alternative sources can also be disrupted. A good example of this is an explosion at the Freeport liquefied natural gas plant in Texas last Wednesday. The cause is not yet clear. Freeport LNG is responsible for 18 percent of US gas exports and has to shut down operations for at least three weeks because of the incident, according to CNN. Production will probably be reduced by 8 percent by the end of July, an expert told the US broadcaster.

Europe will be the most affected region, writes CNN. According to the industry information service ICIS, up to 80 percent of Freeport loads went there in March. 45 percent of European liquefied natural gas imports came from the USA in April and May. After the incident became known, European natural gas futures rose by 9 percent.

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