Gazprom Halts Yamal-Europe Gas Flows

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Russia's Gazprom halted gas flows across Poland to Germany via the Yamal-Europe pipeline on Tuesday, sending prices to new highs.

European spot gas prices have been hitting record levels recently amid tight supplies and uncertainty about import volumes from Russia, the region's top supplier.

The lack of Yamal-Europe volumes pushed the January Dutch TTF gas futures contract to €180.34 per megawatt hour ($58.8 per million Btu) on Tuesday. That was up from €146.93/MWh on Monday and €16.95/MWh a year ago.

With no gas flowing from east to west, Yamal-Europe reversed the direction of flow on Tuesday, shipping small volumes from Germany to Poland, according to data from gas transmission system operator Gascade.

Europe is highly dependent on Russian gas, which it uses to heat buildings and generate electricity.

'Purely Commercial'

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the lack of westward flows on Yamal-Europe on Tuesday had nothing to do with the politicized situation around Gazprom's new Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to Germany.

He insisted that it reflected "purely commercial" considerations.

Gazprom started filling the second Nord Stream 2 line with gas last week, meaning the 55 Bcm/yr pipeline that runs from Russia to Germany beneath the Baltic Sea will soon be ready to operate. The first of the twin lines was filled in October.

However, the German regulatory agency Bundesnetzagentur (BNetza) has recently said that the pipeline is not expected to get final approval to start operations in the first half of 2022.

Russia, meanwhile, has said it stands ready to send more gas to Europe and help ease the tight market as soon as Nord Stream 2 gets the green light.

Many observers have suggested that Gazprom is deliberately restricting gas supplies to Europe by limiting volumes shipped via Ukraine and Poland to try to win speedier approval for Nord Stream 2. Gazprom and the Russian government deny this.

Gazprom Defies Expectations

Opponents of Nord Stream 2 — which include the US — had assumed that with the new pipeline's start-up delayed until well into next year, Gazprom would have to ship more gas via onshore pipelines running through Ukraine and Poland this winter.

However, Gazprom is showing little willingness to do so, at least for now.

At an auction of monthly pipeline capacity on Monday, Gazprom did not book any additional transit capacity via Ukraine for January, to augment the almost 110 MMcm/d of capacity it booked for 2022 under a five-year deal signed in late 2019.

For the Yamal-Europe pipeline via Poland, it booked only 19.26 MMcm/d of the 89.1 MMcm/d of monthly capacity offered for January.

For December, Gazprom did not book any monthly capacity on Yamal-Europe, opting instead to book any additional capacity it needed at daily auctions. But it did not book any daily capacity for Tuesday.

Before halting westward flows on Tuesday, Gazprom had slashed Yamal-Europe deliveries to a marginal 3 MMcm on Dec. 18 and 1.3 MMcm/d on Dec. 19-20 — down from an average of 24.1 MMcm/d for the first 17 days of December.

Gazprom has not shipped more than 80 MMcm/d via the Yamal-Europe pipeline since September (see graph).

Gas Supply, Gas Prices
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