The stage was set for an energy crisis last year. A cold snap in late winter ate into gas reserves, and Gazprom stopped selling any supplies beyond its contractual obligations. Gazprom-owned storage facilities in Germany, including the massive underground chamber in Rehde, which the German government took control of in April, were allowed to dwindle down to nearly empty.
To avoid a repeat of last year, and to safeguard against supply disruptions, the European Union agreed in May to require member states to fill their storage facilities to at least 80 percent of capacity by Nov. 1. So far, countries are making good progress toward this goal, with overall European storage levels at 55 percent.
The giant facility in Rehden is more than 12 percent full, but Germany, Europe’s largest gas consumer, has reached an overall level of 58 percent — both well above the levels this time last year. Other big gas users, including France and Italy, have stores at similar levels, while Spain has more than 77 percent.
But while storage levels are still edging up, Gazprom’s cutbacks put those targets in doubt and threaten a crunch next winter, analysts say.
If Nord Stream was shut down completely, “Europe could run out of storage of gas in January,” said Massimo Di Odoardo, vice president for gas research at Wood Mackenzie, a consulting firm.