Fri. Jan 21st, 2022

The head of the International Energy Agency has accused Russia of suffocating gas supplies to Europe at a time “of heightened geopolitical tensions” implying that Moscow has produced an energy crisis for political purposes.

Fatih Birol said on Wednesday that the IEA, which represents very large fossil fuel-consuming countries, believes Russia is holding back at least a third of the gas it could possibly send to Europe, while Russian-controlled storage facilities on the continent are draining to give the impression of tight supplies. .

“We believe there are strong elements of austerity in the European gas market due to Russia’s behavior,” Birol said. “I want to note that today’s low Russian gas flow to Europe coincides with increased geopolitical tensions over Ukraine.”

Birol added, “Russia can increase deliveries to Europe by at least one third – that’s the key message.”

Birol’s remarks are its most referring to Russia’s role in the energy crisis yet and come as households in the UK and Europe prepare for sharp rises in their bills after wholesale gas and electricity prices rose to record levels.

Russia has long insisted it has complied with all its long-term gas supply contracts to Europe, but has been accused by policymakers and analysts of withholding supplies since last year by restricting spot sales that were once readily available.

Gazprom, Russia’s state-sponsored gas company, wants approval for the launch of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline to Germany, which is designed as an alternative to transit routes through Ukraine.

Russia has stationed about 100,000 troops near the Ukrainian border while Moscow is in talks with the US on European security. The US Senate is expected to vote this week on proposed legislation to impose sanctions on Nord Stream 2.

Birol said European countries, including the UK, should prepare for future crises by ensuring additional gas storage to help alleviate any country’s impact on the market in times of stress.

He singled out Gazprom’s role in reducing the volume of gas stored at facilities it controls within the EU.

“In terms of storage, the current storage deficit in the EU is largely due to Gazprom,” Birol said, noting that total storage is about 50 percent of capacity compared to 70 percent normally in January.

“The low levels of storage in the company’s EU-based facilities account for half of the EU deficit, even though Gazprom storage accounts for only 10 percent of the EU’s total storage capacity,” he added.

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