Russia orders gas not exported to Europe to be burned on the border with Finland | International
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Russia burns its gas at the gates of the European Union while cutting fuel supplies. In the vicinity of the controversial Portovaya compressor station, where the Nord Stream gas pipeline enters the Baltic Sea, a liquefied natural gas plant has begun to burn unprecedented amounts of that hydrocarbon in the air when its price skyrockets to record highs . Across the border, European countries continue their disconnection from Russia: France this week became the fifth country in the bloc to fill more than 90% of its gas reserves for the winter.
The huge jet of fire can be seen clearly in satellite images obtained by the European Copernicus program. The facilities are located in the Gulf of Finland, next to the Russian city of Víborg. According to an analysis by the firm Rystad Energy, to which the British network BBC has had access, Russia would be burning more than four million cubic meters of gas a day, an eighth of what it supplied to Europe in the last month through Nord Stream, or the equivalent of 10 million euros of gas per day.
The Finns themselves were the first to warn of this strange situation from their border. The medium Mtv Uutiset tells how several of them even perceived a heat wave. “Ari Laine, a nature enthusiast, was walking on Lansker Island on July 24 when he spotted a strange llama on the horizon in the morning. He took a picture through the telescope of it, it shone clearly even in the sunlight,” the newspaper reported. Likewise, the Finnish press denounces the environmental impact that this massive burning of gas can cause, a practice that is not uncommon in this type of installation, but not at such high levels.
Since last July 27, Moscow has reduced its supply through Nord Stream to just 20% of the usual pumping. According to Gazprom figures, its shipment has remained stable this week and around 33 million cubic meters of gas per day. As a comparison, in 2020 it reached a record figure of 177 million cubic meters.
However, Europe is worried about a complete cut in the short term. The last turbine that remains active in Portovaya, near the border with Finland, will be stopped for three days, from August 31 to September 2, for alleged maintenance tasks, although in the community block they believe that Moscow may not resume the pipeline activity. “They don’t have the guts to say: ‘We are in an economic war with you,'” German Economy Minister Robert Habeck said a month ago, as quoted by Reuters.
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It all started with the blockage of a turbine, the SGT-A65, which was sent to Canada for repair by the German company Siemens at the end of last year. The North American country, which included Gazprom on its list of those sanctioned for the war in Ukraine, withheld the return of the piece for weeks, until in early July the Canadian government approved making a temporary exception with the Russian gas giant to help Europe as it “continues its transition away from Russian oil and gas.”
Once the piece arrived in Germany, it did not continue on its way to Portovaya. The Russian authorities prevented its passage because Gazprom requires written guarantees that it will not be subject to sanctions. Subsequently, on July 25, Moscow deactivated another turbine on the pretext that its review deadlines were not met and it was not “in a technical state” to operate, leaving the facility with only one in operation.
The situation has become so bizarre that this week Ottawa and Moscow have discussed the fate of another five turbines in the Nord Stream gas pipeline. Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly promised during an interview that her country will return the other parts in repair once they have been received. Gazprom, however, caused further confusion with a brief statement on Telegram replying that these “are not currently in Canada”.
The tension between the West and Russia is reflected in the current cost of gas. The markets fear that Russia will not resume its supply through Nord Stream, once the scheduled stoppage at the end of August is over. Thus, the price of gas has exceeded 3,500 dollars per 1,000 cubic meters in the London ICE futures market.
In any case, Europe continues to prepare for winter. France announced this week that its reserves exceeded 90% of its total capacity, while the average of the members of the European Union was around 78.3% on August 24, which is less than two percentage points compared to 80 Minimum % requested by Brussels for this year, according to data provided by Gas Infrastructure Europe.
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