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German gas storage 80% full, progresses despite Russian cuts

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BERLIN (AP) — Germany’s natural gas storage facilities are now more than 80% full, showing steady progress despite a drastic reduction in deliveries from Russia amid the war in Ukraine.

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Gas storage in Europe’s biggest economy has reached 80.14% of capacity, according to industry figures released Tuesday. The head of Germany’s network regulator, Klaus Mueller, tweeted that storage is “being filled steadily” but cautioned that a planned three-day halt to deliveries through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline from Russia next week “could temporarily dampen” the effort.

Natural gas is used to power industry, heat homes and offices, and generate electricity. Increasing the amount in reserve has been a key focus of the German government since Russia invaded Ukraine to avoid rationing for industry as demand rises in the winter.

The country’s storage was about 56% full when Russian state-owned energy company Gazprom started cutting supplies through Nord Stream 1 in mid-June. It cited technical problems that German authorities have dismissed as cover for a political power play.

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In recent weeks, Nord Stream 1 has been running at only 20% of capacity. Gazprom announced Friday that the pipeline will shut from Aug. 31 to Sept. 2 for what it said is “routine maintenance” at a compressor station.

Germany is one of several European countries to be hit by reductions in Russian natural gas supplies since the war started. Dwindling supplies, fears of further cutoffs and strong demand have sent natural gas prices on Europe’s TTF benchmark soaring to record highs this month, fueling inflation and raising the prospect of a recession in Europe.

A month ago, the German government moved to tighten storage requirements. It introduced a requirement for storage to be 75% full by Sept. 1 — a target that already has been surpassed — and raised the targets for October and November to 85% and 95%, respectively, from 80% and 90%.

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The joint managing director of gas industry coordination group Trading Hub Europe, Torsten Frank, cautioned in comments to the daily Rheinische Post that “we will be able to fill many facilities to 95% by November, but not all.”

However, he said that he doesn’t expect a nationwide gas shortage to arise, though he can’t rule out regional shortages. He said he is “very confident that private households won’t have to freeze this winter.”

Russia accounted for a bit more than a third of Germany’s gas supplies before the supply reductions started. In addition to prioritizing storage, authorities also are trying to encourage energy saving.

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