The European Commission said on August 18 that Europe’s gas storage levels were unusually high, with November 1 targets met months ahead of schedule. However, markets remained cautious ahead of the coming winter.
When Russia reduced gas shipments to Europe in 2022, the German government realized that Gazprom had purposefully kept storage levels at its plants as low as possible. To avoid this issue in the future, mandatory targets in the EU were established in June.
Europe has reached its 90% target in mid-August, well ahead of the projected date of November 1.
“This will help us be safe this winter,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen was quoted as saying. She added that attempts to diversify gas supply sources in the EU were ongoing.
While Russia supplied more than half of all gas imports in 2019, that share swiftly fell after EU sanctions against Russia for its war in Ukraine took effect in mid-2022.
When Nord Stream, a crucial pipeline serving Germany, was destroyed, pipeline gas shipments into Europe were lowered to an all-time low.
Russian gas now accounts for only around 12% of EU imports, passing through Ukraine and arriving in ports as liquefied natural gas.
The EU energy market is in a much more stable position than it was in the fall of 2022, according to experts and officials. Gas prices for the winter are not expected to increase.
Nonetheless, market players remain concerned. No matter how full Europe’s gas storage facilities are, they are far from being able to keep up with consumption. They have a maximum capacity of up to 1,100 Terawatt-hours (TWh), while 2022 gas consumption was about 4,000 TWh.
Most European nations have dramatically cut their imports from Russia. Germany, historically the Kremlin’s largest customer, has dropped to near-zero. But Austria has lagged.
This is noteworthy since Austria is one of the EU’s storage leaders, accounting for about 10% of Europe’s total gas storage capacity.
Germany’s storage capacity was mainly filled by purchasing expensive LNG. On the opposite, Austria has maintained its existing supply deal with Gazprom, which the Kremlin has been only too eager to satisfy.