Russian state gas company says the pipeline requires maintenance, deepening energy standoff with Europe.
Russia’s state-owned energy company Gazprom has said a key pipeline conveying natural gas to Europe will shut down for three days at the end of this month to undergo “routine maintenance.”
The unscheduled maintenance order on the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, which runs under the Baltic Sea to Germany, deepens an energy standoff between Moscow and Brussels which has already helped send inflation surging in the region and raised the risk of rationing and recession.
In a statement posted online on Friday, Gazprom said that the only operational turbine at a key compressor station along the pipeline, which links Western Russia and Germany, will shut down for routine maintenance from August 31 to September 2.
“A set of routine maintenance in accordance with the current maintenance contract will be carried out jointly with Siemens specialists,” the company said, in a reference to its German partner, Siemens Energy.
Flows of natural gas through Nord Stream 1 have been contentious.
The shutdown will come a month after Gazprom restored natural gas supply through the pipeline to only a fifth of its capacity after a previous shutdown for maintenance.
Russia has blamed the reductions through the pipeline on technical problems, but Germany calls them a political move to sow uncertainty and push up prices amid the conflict in Ukraine.
Germany has already had to give Uniper, the country’s largest importer of Russian gas and the highest-profile corporate victim of Europe’s energy crisis so far, a 15 trillion euro ($15.1bn) bailout last month after Russia drastically cut flows, forcing it to buy gas elsewhere at much higher prices.
The newly announced maintenance shutoff raises additional fears that Russia could completely cut off gas that is used to power industry, generate electricity and heat homes to try to gain political leverage over Europe as it tries to boost its storage levels for winter.
Natural gas prices have surged as Russia has reduced or cut off natural gas flows to a dozen European Union countries, worsening inflation and raising the risk that Europe could plunge into recession.
Gazprom said that once work is completed, the flow of gas through Nord Stream 1 will resume in line with current volumes of 33 million cubic meters a day, about 20 percent of the pipeline’s nominal capacity.