Months of brinkmanship by Russia over the flow of natural gas to Germany and the rest of Europe could reach a high point later this week, when a temporary shutdown of the Nord Stream 1 pipeline is scheduled to end.
Nord Stream 1, the main pipeline connecting Germany and Russia, is operated by Gazprom, the Russian state-owned energy giant. Gazprom, which recently warned European buyers of its gas that it might cut off flows, shut down the pipeline on July 11 for annual maintenance. Gazprom is scheduled to restart the pipeline after about 10 days, as it has done in past years.
But this year the closure has raised concerns that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia will keep the pipeline shut to punish Germany and the rest of Europe for their opposition to the war in Ukraine. Other pipelines, running through Poland and Ukraine, are not being used as alternative links to send gas as they were in past years during the temporary shutdown, Germany’s pipeline regulator said.
Gazprom had already reduced gas shipments by up to 60 percent before the closure, blaming the absence of a turbine that had been sent to Canada for repairs and could not be returned because of economic sanctions against shipping technology to Russia. German officials disputed Gazprom’s claim.
The restriction of Russian gas since the war began in February has forced one of Germany’s largest energy providers to the brink of financial ruin. The company, Uniper, said on Monday that it had used up a 2 billion-euro credit line from the German state-owned investment bank and had applied for more money.
Uniper, which is Germany’s largest importer of Russian gas, has racked up daily losses of tens of million of euros since Russia cut gas flows to Germany last month, forcing it to buy gas from other sources at much higher prices. Natural gas prices have increased steadily since September, when Russia began reducing the amount of fuel it made available for purchase on the short-term market.
But reports on Tuesday that Gazprom planned to resume limited flows through Nord Stream as scheduled on Thursday sent natural gas futures prices tumbling about 5 percent the Dutch TTF exchange, to about €154 per megawatt-hour.