Gazprom has not finished playing with the nerves of Europeans. This Tuesday, it was Engie who paid the price. In a press release, the French energy company announced that the Russian giant Gazprom informed it of the reduction in its gas deliveries, as of Tuesday, “due to a disagreement between the parties on the application of contracts” . Concretely, this means that Gazprom’s deliveries to Engie should fall “below one TWh”, “we are approaching nothing”, underlines a close friend of the group.
Significantly reduced since the start of the war in Ukraine, the volumes of Russian gas delivered by Gazprom to Engie represent 4% of its total supplies, or 1.5 TWh. Given this very low level, Engie wants to be reassuring. “Avoid the gas failure? Yes, we will get there this winter, ”even argued Claire Waysand, the deputy director general of Engie, during a round table at the Medef summer universities on Monday.
A precarious situation
However, this new reversal by Moscow reminds us that the situation remains very precarious. If the gas stocks are largely filled in France, up to 91%, which represents according to the public authorities about two months ahead of the traditional rate, at European level, the situation is less flattering. Stocks are only 80% full, compared to a average of 82% achieved over the past five years previous ones.
“It is not a high level”, points out Thierry Bros, professor at Science Po. However, in the event of a shortage, European solidarity could involve coming to dip into French stocks to meet the needs of other countries of the Union.
In addition, many uncertainties remain on future flows from Russia. “To get through the winter, you need stocks that are 91% full and also standardized supplies,” recalls Thierry Bros. Since July, the volumes supplied by Gazprom, via the main gas pipeline supplying Europe, Nord Stream 1, have been reduced to 20% of the pipeline’s transit capacity. However, this level is likely to fall further in the next few days since Gazprom has announced a new maintenance period on Nord stream 1. This must extend from August 31 to September 2.
“In the event of a total stoppage of Russian gas deliveries, 20 billion m3 of gas could be lacking in Europe this winter. This is the equivalent of half of the consumption of the whole of Europe during the month of March for example”, explains Thierry Bros.
Also in France, the government is sounding the general mobilization. In front of the bosses of French companies gathered at the Medef summer universities, Elisabeth Borne warned: if energy savings are not sufficient, “rationing” is on the program.
“Very clearly, Russia is using gas as a weapon of war and we must prepare for the worst-case scenario which is an interruption of deliveries,” also underlined Minister for Ecological Transition, Agnès Pannier-Runacher, this Tuesday on France Inter.
Relaxation in the gas and electricity markets
This subject as well as the continuity of the electricity supply will be at the heart of the Defense Council on energy convened by the Elysée on Friday. On the markets, these multiple speeches by the government already seem to be reassuring. Just like Ursula von der Leyen’s announcement on Monday of an upcoming reform on the electricity market in Europe.
The gas futures contract, the Dutch TTF, was trading on Tuesday at around 260 euros per megawatt hour (MWh), after peaking at more than 300 euros last week, while French electricity futures contracts for the year 2023 fell back to around 920 euros per MWh against a price of more than 1000 euros a few days ago.