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Storage tanks hard to fill: Moscow puts more pressure on gas industry

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Difficult to fill memory
Moscow is putting more pressure on the gas industry

By Nils Kremer and Thomas Steinmann

According to a new law, German gas storage facilities must reach minimum filling levels by certain dates. But Russia and its attack on Ukraine constantly present new challenges to operators.

Russia’s announcement that it will impose sanctions on former subsidiaries of the energy group Gazprom has caused an uproar in the already struggling German gas industry. On Thursday, the government in Moscow published a list of 31 Russian companies that will soon not be allowed to do business – including Gazprom Germany’s subsidiary, Gazprom. Gazprom Germania has been held in trust by the Federal Network Agency since the beginning of April due to the attack on Ukraine, but it is still officially owned by Gazprom.

The industry was previously unstable due to reports that less natural gas was flowing westward through Ukrainian transit pipelines due to the war, and that gas transportation was also directly affected by the Russian offensive for the first time. The reason is that the Soyuz pipeline, one of the central supply lines, runs through the disputed Luhansk region in eastern Ukraine, which is partly controlled by pro-Russian units.

Moscow’s new decision may complicate an important project with which Germany’s energy industry has been struggling for several weeks: according to the new law on gas storage levels passed at the beginning of April, operators of German storage facilities must establish certain minimum levels on key dates in order to ensure gas supply natural. In the future, for example, an 80 percent mobilization level will be required by October 1 and a 90 percent mobilization level by November 1. According to the EU Commission’s plans, countries should fill their gas storage facilities to 80% by November 1, 2022.

Storage is no longer a private matter

The law is also a reaction to the situation in the months leading up to the Russian attack, when gas volumes at some storage facilities were well below average. This primarily affected factories that were under the control of the now sanctioned Gazprom Germania – including Germany’s largest natural gas storage facility in Rieden, Lower Saxony.

Basically, the operation of storage was a somewhat private matter, and now the authorities had a say in a central point. “The state is suddenly playing a much stronger role in the gas market,” says Matthias Lange, an energy law expert at law firm Bird & Bird, who is closely involved in implementing the new law. „Previously, gas storage facilities were regulated mainly by private law. Now a governmental component has been created.”

If the storage facility cannot be filled as required because users are simply feeding too little gas, the so-called market area manager must step in now. In Germany, this is Trading Hub Europe, which then, in consultation with the Federal Ministry of Economy, has to buy the missing volumes from the gas market – at the expense of the general public. In fact, the state is involved in procurement, which is also involved in the withdrawal, that is, the question of when and how much natural gas is fed into the German network of storage facilities.

In 2021, more than half of them came from Russia

In theory, new sanctions against Russia would prevent Gazprom Germania from supplying Russian gas and thus also from filling its storage facilities – although this may be difficult to implement in practice. “Who is allowed to store and withdraw what in Germany is not decided according to Russian law,” says Lang. „But if the gas is no longer physically available, it cannot of course be stored either.” In other words: As long as natural gas is still flowing, Russian sanctions are only effective on paper.

However, in the event of a real interruption of Russian gas supplies, only a few countries in Europe can fill gas storage facilities by the next heating season as required by the EU Commission. This stems from a report on the state of power supplies from the Federal Network Agency and the Federal Department of Economics as of the beginning of May, available to Capital. According to the newspaper, if deliveries are stopped in time, only Belgium, France, Spain, Portugal and Great Britain will be able to fill their storage facilities to 100% by the end of the summer. Three other countries could reach a level of between 30 and 60 percent. This affects the Netherlands, Germany and Italy. Above all, Central and Eastern European countries will largely fail to achieve the goals.

Last year, Germany covered more than 50 percent of its gas needs from Russia. Federal Economy Minister Robert Habeck of the Green Party has been working for weeks to reduce the Russian share as quickly as possible. For this purpose, floating LNG terminals will be built on the German coast as of next winter.

According to the report released at the end of the summer, only 382-690 TWh of European storage capacities of 1,100 TWh could be stored. This is mainly due to the fact that the Netherlands, Germany and Italy, which together have about half of the storage capacity, can only reach a fill level of 60 percent at best. Western European countries have a storage area of ​​just under 200 terawatts.

The numbers in the report are based on the April delivery halt scenario. Since then, filling levels at German storage facilities have increased by a few percentage points. But recently, Russian gas giant Gazprom suspended deliveries to Poland and Bulgaria because both countries did not agree to new payment terms for gas deliveries. The Russian side requires the contracting parties to open two accounts with Gazprombank so that payments in euros or dollars can be converted into rubles there. Weeks ago, President Vladimir Putin issued a decree according to which, unlike most supply contracts, bills should be settled in rubles.

However, according to experts, the model with two accounts violates the EU sanctions imposed on the Russian Central Bank because the conversion into rubles goes through the Central Bank. That raises the question of how German energy companies will pay their bills to Gazprom at the end of May – and whether the row will escalate after that.

This text is the first in „capital” Posted.

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Only agree to surrender: This is how Turkey blackmails the West in the NATO conflict – Politics

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Recep Zarakulu has been an enemy of the Turkish state for half a century. After the military coup of 1971, the 74-year-old appeared in court for the first time – due to contacts with Amnesty International.

Zarakulu later co-founded the Turkish Association for Human Rights and published books on the Armenian Genocide and the Kurdish Question as a publisher.

Today, he is on a list of 40 alleged „terrorists” whose extradition Turkey has made a condition of Finland and Sweden agreeing to NATO membership. The Zaracolo case shows why Turkey has so far been unable to convince the West of its demands.

[Alle aktuellen Nachrichten zum russischen Angriff auf die Ukraine bekommen Sie mit der Tagesspiegel-App live auf ihr Handy. Hier für Apple- und Android-Geräte herunterladen.]

Finnish and Swedish negotiators spoke for the first time about the NATO dispute with Turkish government officials in Ankara on Wednesday. Then Ibrahim Kalin, spokesman for the Turkish presidential office and advisor to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, spoke about the positive attitude of the Nordic countries towards Turkey’s demand to lift the arms embargo imposed since 2019.

But Turkey is not satisfied with that. She is asking for tangible proof from Helsinki and Stockholm that they are moving away from The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is run as a terrorist organization. They also insist on handing over opponents of the Turkish government.

Zaracolo has lived in Sweden for ten years

According to Ankara, 28 people in Sweden and 12 in Finland on the Turkish list are dangerous enemies of the state and can be attributed to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, far-left groups or the movement of Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen.

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Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu told the Haberturk news channel that Turkey does not want to hear excuses such as referring to EU rules. Turkey’s demands must be met — even if Finland and Sweden have to change their laws to allow for deliveries.

The Turkish side accused Recep Zarakulu (here 2008), among other things, of supporting a violent coup.Photo: John McDougall/AFP

Zaracolo is watching developments from Sweden, where he has lived for nearly ten years. He told exiled radio station Ozguruz Radio that he did not believe he would be extradited.

Sweden’s highest court had refused to extradite him in 2019. Contrary to what is happening in Turkey, Zarakulu said, the government in Sweden has to abide by court decisions. Ankara might assume that the government in Stockholm can act like the Turkish government in its own country: by pressuring the judiciary to enforce its will.

Two years ago, I started new investigations

The Zaracolo case illustrates how far apart European countries and Turkey are in understanding the law. A human rights activist in Turkey should not be imprisoned for using or advocating violence.

He was convicted of giving a lecture at a legitimate Kurdish party. According to the Turkish judiciary, he was convicted of supporting a terrorist organization.

Two years ago, the Turkish Prosecutor General’s Office launched new investigations against him: In an article in the left-wing newspaper „Evrensel”, Zarakulu compared Erdogan to former Prime Minister Adnan Menderes, who was executed in 1961 after a military coup. . Prosecutors accused Zaracolo of calling for the article’s overturn to be violent.

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Zarakulu said in the interview that there was no legal basis for extradition – after talks in Ankara on Wednesday, Erdogan’s advisor Kalin said the exact opposite: there is no legal basis for refusing to extradite „terrorists”.

There is also a deceased person on the list

Bulent Kenes, the former editor-in-chief of a newspaper affiliated with the Gülen movement, is also on Turkey’s extradition list. He is accused of involvement in the 2016 coup attempt. Another opponent of the government, Kurdish politician and journalist Mehmet Sirak Bilgin, is on Turkey’s extradition list but died seven years ago.

the list It could potentially serve as a bargaining chip in modern poker, which Ankara could give up in exchange for concessions. The most important thing for Turkey is to end the arms embargo imposed on European countries. Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson has made it clear that her country does not send weapons or money to terrorist organizations.

The Turkish government accuses Sweden of supporting the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Syria.

Erdogan’s veto threat prevents Finland and Sweden, which are seeking NATO protection because of Russia’s war against Ukraine, from easily joining NATO.

Turkey faces a lack of understanding on the part of its allies. Only Russia is benefiting from the conflict, the German ambassador to Turkey, Jürgen Schulz, said at a security conference in Istanbul. Christoph Heusgen, president of the Munich Security Conference, said at the event that Turkey could better solve its problems with Finland and Sweden after they joined NATO more than before.

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Russia plans to put gas profits in Ukraine attack

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The export of gas and other fuels brings Russia several billions of additional revenue. Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said some of the money could be used in the Ukraine war.

Russia expects an additional income equivalent to 13.7 billion euros this year from the export of fossil fuels. „We expect up to an additional trillion rubles in oil and gas revenues,” Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said on state television on Friday, referring to the Economic Development Ministry’s latest forecast. Part of the extra income can be used to continue the Russian attack on Ukraine.

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He said the government wanted to spend the extra revenue this year rather than putting it aside. The finance minister said the money should be spent on „additional payments” to pensioners, families with children and „special operation” in Ukraine, citing Russia’s war against Ukraine.

Gas and oil have so far been excluded from sanctions

The West has imposed a series of sanctions on Moscow to punish the Kremlin for sending troops to Ukraine. So far, Russian oil and gas supplies have been exempted from sanctions. Russia is currently reaping record revenues due to the high price of gas.

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