Russia is delivering less gas to Germany – this is causing problems for the energy supplier Uniper. At the same time, concerns are growing about a complete blockade of the important Nord Stream 1 pipeline.

Federal Minister of Economics Robert Habeck fears that there will be no Russian gas supplies through the Nord Stream gas pipeline in the Baltic Sea.

From July 11, there is a threat of “a total blockade of Nord Stream 1,” said the Green politician on Thursday at a “sustainability summit” of the “Süddeutsche Zeitung”. That’s why it can be really problematic in winter. The gas supply over the summer is guaranteed.

In mid-June, Russia had already severely curtailed deliveries through Nord Stream, citing technical problems. In response, the federal government had declared the alarm level in the gas emergency plan. “Gas is now a scarce commodity in Germany,” Habeck said. He had launched a package of measures to reduce gas consumption in industry and gas can be stored instead.

Appeals with effect

The appeals and measures to reduce gas consumption are now clearly having an effect: nationwide gas consumption between January and May was around 460 billion kilowatt hours, as the Federal Association of Energy and Water Industries (BDEW) announced on Thursday. That was 14.3 percent less than in the first five months of the previous year.

In addition to the mild weather in spring, the high gas prices are also a major reason for this, it said. Because even adjusted for temperature effects, the decline compared to the previous year was still almost 6.5 percent according to the association. The decline in May was particularly clear, explained the BDEW and referred to “personally motivated savings effects”.

Annual maintenance work on Nord Stream 1 will begin on July 11. The pipeline is usually shut down for ten days, Habeck said at the “Sustainability Summit”. But based on the pattern seen, it wouldn’t be “super surprising” if any small part was found. “And then you say: Yes, we can’t turn it on again, now we found something during maintenance and that’s it. So in that respect the situation is quite tense.”

The gas is still flowing

The storage facilities would have to be full by winter, Habeck continued, and two floating terminals for importing liquefied natural gas (LNG) in Germany would have to be connected. According to the Federal Network Agency, the current storage levels in Germany are around 61 percent. After the Russian throttling, 0.3 to 0.5 percent of gas will be stored per day, said Habeck. That’s about half of what happened before Nord Stream 1 was cut. But there are still significant amounts.

The throttling of Russian gas supplies is meanwhile already putting the energy supplier Uniper under pressure. According to the Ministry of Economic Affairs, the federal government is in talks with the company about stabilization measures.

Uniper had dropped its earnings forecasts for the current year due to the restricted gas supplies from Russia. Already in the first quarter, billions in losses had accumulated at the Düsseldorfers because of the Russia commitment. According to Uniper, there are a number of instruments that can be used for stabilization measures, such as guarantee and security payments, an increase in the current credit facility, and equity investments.

According to Uniper, since mid-June it has only received 40 percent of the contractually guaranteed gas volumes from Gazprom and has had to procure replacement volumes at great expense. The company assumes that if the Federal Network Agency finds out and announces the gas shortage, some of the current burdens can be passed on to customers.

The company’s shares, which are listed in the MDax and are majority owned by the Finnish utility Fortum, collapsed on Thursday. In early trading, the paper temporarily lost almost 23 percent, but was then able to reduce the losses. At around 14 euros, the share costs less than it has since 2017. Since the beginning of the year, the losses have now totaled almost 70 percent.