Gazprom closes gas pipeline to Europe for 3 days

MOSCOW — A key pipeline bringing Russian natural gas to Europe will be shut down for three days at the end of this month for “routine maintenance,” Russian state energy company Gazprom said on Friday.

In a statement posted online, Gazprom said the only operational turbine at a key compressor station along the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, which connects western Russia and Germany, will be closed for maintenance from August 31. to September 2.

“A set of routine maintenance in accordance with the current maintenance contract will be carried out jointly with Siemens specialists,” the company said, referring to its German partner, Siemens Energy.

Gazprom said that once the work is completed, gas flow through Nord Stream 1 will resume to its previous level of 33 million cubic meters, or just 20% of the pipeline’s capacity.

Natural gas prices jumped as Russia cut or halted natural gas flows to a dozen European Union countries, fueling inflation and increasing the risk that Europe would plunge into recession.

Germany’s economy ministry said in an email to The Associated Press that it had taken note of Gazprom’s planned shutdown of Nord Stream 1.

“We are monitoring the situation in close cooperation with the Federal Network Agency” which regulates the gas markets,” the ministry said. “Gas flows via Nord Stream 1 are currently unchanged at 20%.”

Natural gas flows through Nord Stream 1 have been controversial. The latest shutdown will come a month after Gazprom restored natural gas supply through the pipeline to just a fifth of its capacity after a previous shutdown for maintenance.

Russia has blamed the pipeline cuts on technical issues, but Germany calls them a political move by the Kremlin aimed at creating uncertainty and driving up prices amid the conflict in Ukraine.

The recently announced maintenance shutdown has raised fears that Russia will completely cut off gas used to power industry, generate electricity and heat homes in Europe in an attempt to gain political leverage over the Europe as it tries to increase its storage levels for the winter.

Germany recently announced that its gas storage facilities had reached 75% capacity, two weeks ahead of the September 1 target date. The Germans have been told to reduce their gas consumption now so that the country has enough for the coming winter.

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Mary I. Bruner