German gas reserves reach critical low, falling below government-set storage target levels

Power plants in Germany. (MTI/EPA/Sascha Steinbach)
By Dénes Albert
3 Min Read

The level of natural gas storage in Germany has reportedly fallen to a critical level of 37 percent, German business paper Handelsblatt reported on Tuesday.

Sebastian Bleschke, managing director of the Association of Storage Operators (INES), revealed that the indicators set by the federal government were in the red, and that by the beginning of February the country will have “fallen below the storage target levels required to ensure risk scenarios.”

INES referred to an expert opinion prepared in 2015 by the law firm Becker Büttner Held (BBH) for the Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs. In this, the authors showed that a storage level of 40 percent would be needed on Feb. 1 for Germany to cope with seven days of extreme cold.

To survive a 30-day frost wave requires a charge level of 50 percent, and a 60 percent charge requires Germany to withstand a one-month outage of Russian gas supplies due to some political conflict without a supply disruption. By Feb. 1, none of the targets had been met, Handelsblatt reported.

Even before the start of the heating season in the autumn, German gas reservoirs were well below the long-term average of around 85 percent. The main reason for this was reportedly due to the reluctance of importers to pay the high gas prices and therefore opted to restrain storage. In addition, Russia had supply problems due to technical disruptions in gas production.

Germany has few gas fields of its own, only about a tenth of its consumption is covered by domestic production, so it has to supply gas primarily from imports and ensure that energy is stored to compensate for seasonal fluctuations in consumption.

According to INES, the total capacity of German gas storage facilities is about 23 billion cubic meters of gas. This puts Germany in fourth place globally in terms of storage capacity, only behind the United States, Ukraine and Russia. Germany’s gas storage facilities account for about a quarter of the European Union’s gas storage capacity with Germany possessing the largest natural gas storage capacity among the EU member states.

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