By GEIR MOULSON
BERLIN (AP) — Natural gas started flowing through a major pipeline from Russia to Europe on Thursday after a 10-day shutdown for maintenance — but the gas flow remained well short of full capacity and the outlook was uncertain, which leaves Europe still facing the prospect of a hard winter.
Deliveries through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline under the Baltic Sea resumed at 40% of capacity, the level they had been at for weeks before annual maintenance. The German government announced that it would step up its gas storage requirements and take further measures to save gas.
The pipeline had been closed since July 11 for maintenance. Amid growing tensions over Russia’s war in Ukraine, German officials had feared that the pipeline — the country’s main source of Russian gas, which recently has accounted for around a third of Germany’s gas supplies — might not reopen at all.
But the gas deliveries that were arriving still weren’t enough to resolve Europe’s energy crisis, and officials suspect that Russia is likely to disrupt supplies further. German Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck said the reduced supply “speaks a clear political language and confirms that we can’t rely on deliveries.”
“The outlook is simply extremely volatile,” said Klaus Mueller, the head of Germany’s network regulator. “We must save more to get through the next two winters well.”
Russia’s state-owned Gazprom reduced the flow through Nord Stream 1 by 60% in mid-June, citing alleged technical problems involving equipment that partner Siemens Energy sent to Canada for overhaul and couldn’t be returned because of sanctions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The Canadian government earlier this month gave permission for the turbine to be delivered to Germany.