Europe’s natural gas supply has been dealt yet another hammer blow as Russian gas giant Gazprom announced earlier today that it will reduce its daily throughput of the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to Germany to 33 million cubic metres (m3) as of Wednesday, 27th July.

The news comes after Gazprom’s announcement in June that it would reduce flows through the pipeline to 40% capacity due to scheduled maintenance. 

By reducing the throughput to 33mm3, flow will be slashed to just 20% of its original capacity, igniting fears of recession in a country already beset by soaring energy costs. 

With Gazprom citing the shutdown of a Siemens turbine at the Portovaya compressor station as the reason for the reduction in supply, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky stated that Russia was conducting ‘gas blackmail of Europe’ during his nightly address yesterday. 

He added that the move was part of Russia’s intention to make it more difficult for Europe to stock up on gas in preparation for the colder winter months. 

As part of a wider plan to deal with reduced supplies from Russian, the European Commission has called for Europe to lower its consumption of natural gas by 15% until next spring. 

“Russia is using energy as a weapon… Europe needs to be ready.”

Speaking at a news conference on Wednesday, 20th July, European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, accused Russia of using energy as a weapon. 

“Russia is blackmailing us. Russia is using energy as a weapon. And therefore, in any event, whether a partial major cutoff of Russian gas or a total cutoff of Russian gas, Europe needs to be ready.” 

Energy independence 

Having been reliant on Russian gas for around 40% of its supply, the EU has sought to increase independence of its gas supply over recent months. 

As one of Russia’s most prolific natural gas customers, Germany imported about 36% - or 48.1mm3 – of its gas from the country last year, according to gasworld Business Intelligence (BI). 

Read more: Europe’s unshackling from Russian gas

Over the past few months the country has made significant moves to reduce its reliance on Russian gas by employing floating storage regasification units (FSRUs) to scale up supply of liquefied natural gas (LNG). 

Construction of one of the FSRU projects - Uniper’s 65m Wilhelmshaven LNG terminal – was brought forward to 4th July 2022 following the early approval by the State Trade Supervisory Authority Oldenburg. 

Capable of handling 7.5bnm3 of natural gas per year, Wilhelmshaven will help supply around 8.5% of Germany’s current gas demand. 

Read more: Germany set for ‘rapid’ replacement of Russian gas

Prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Germany was the only major EU country that did not have its own infrastructure for receiving tankers with LNG and subsequent regasification.

As part of its drive towards sustainability, Germany has also seen an uptake in bio-LNG projects, which could in turn increase energy independence. 

What is bio-LNG?

Bio-LNG is a fuel made through the breakdown of organic waste. This process produces biogas, which is comprised of methane and CO2. This methane is separated from the CO2 and liquefied to make a carbon neutral biofuel, essentially a renewable non-fossil fuel replacement for LNG that only emits carbon that is already part of the biogenic carbon cycle.

Earlier this year, energy giant Shell began construction on what will be the largest bio-LNG production plant in the country. 

With a capacity of about 100,000 tonnes, the plant will supply the green gas to the company’s growing network of LNG filling stations in the country. 

European efforts to reduce reliance on Russian gas will also accelerate hydrogen use and demand. 

By scaling up the development of electrolysers, the European Commission plans to replace 25-50bnm3 of Russian gas with green hydrogen. 

With studies suggesting that 80 GW of electrolyser capacity will be needed within Europe by 2030, to fully displace 50bnm3 of Russian natural gas it was estimated that 186 GW of electrolyser capacity is required.