Promises, Parts, and Pipelines

The main natural gas pipeline between Russia and Germany has been shut down today for scheduled maintenance. Ordinarily, this would be no big deal. However, since Russia invaded Ukraine, everything has changed. Moscow has not been shy to use energy reserves as leverage during their almost 5-month long war. Just ask Poland and Bulgaria, who were cut off in late April.

Part of the vast and sometimes complicated pipeline. Image Credit: Jens Buttner/Picture Alliance

The flow of gas is supposed to be stopped for ten days. However, many industry analysts warn to brace for a permanent shutdown. The enormous pipeline, which usually transports almost 60 billion cubic meters of gas annually, has already been slowed to 40% capacity. In comparison, Europe used 399 cubic meters of gas in 2020. Russia enacted the 40% cut after stating that an essential gas compressor unit was being held abroad due to sanctions imposed on them by Canada. Many in the west are calling this a form of energy blackmail.

Canada has recently capitulated and will return the essential component to Germany, hoping Russia will keep the gas flowing. As you might imagine, Ukraine’s energy and foreign ministries were unhappy about this decision and called for its reversal. They said that Canada was “bowing to the whims of Russia.” Explaining their reversal, the Canadian government stated that returning the equipment to Europe would support “Europe’s ability to access reliable and affordable energy as they continue to transition away from Russian oil and gas.”