Germany tells Russia’s Gazprom its turbine is ready for pipeline

Standing before a huge metal turbine that normally pushes natural gas from Russia to Germany via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz rejected Russia’s claim that technical problems were behind the sharp reduction in gas flows to Germany.

He said the only reason the machine had not yet been returned to Russia after undergoing maintenance work is that Gazprom, Russia’s state-owned energy giant, did not want it back.

The turbine, which is at the center of a dispute between Germany and Gazprom, was put on display Wednesday at a news event in the western city of Mülheim an der Ruhr, where it has been stored since it was returned from a refurbishment in Canada.

Gazprom and Vladimir V. Putin, the president of Russia, have blamed Siemens Energy, the manufacturer of the turbine, for the delays in its return to Russia. They have repeatedly mentioned the need to “required documents and clarifications,” and said his absence was the reason he reduced gas flows to 20 percent of capacity.

After weeks of posting only terse answers, the German side seemed determined to uncover Gazprom and Putin’s deception.

“It is obvious that nothing, nothing at all stands in the way of the further transportation of this turbine and its installation in Russia. It can be transported and used at any time,” Scholz told reporters. “There is no technical reason for the reduction in gas supplies.”

European officials say Russia is cutting its gas deliveries to punish Europe for its opposition to the war in Ukraine. In mid-June, Gazprom reduced the amount of gas it delivered to Germany through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to just 40 percent of possible capacity. Last week it dropped the amount back in half.

Germany still depends on Russia for about a third of its natural gas needs, down from more than half before the start of the war, but still enough to leave the country reeling from cuts. It is scrambling to stockpile enough fuel before demand surges in winter, hoping to avoid rationing and the closure of key industries if Russia cuts off supply altogether.

Gas storage facilities in Germany were 69 percent full as of Wednesday, but officials told businesses and citizens to start reducing their energy use as much as possible while the weather was still warm. Nearly half of all homes in Germany are heated by gas, and homes, along with essential infrastructure such as hospitals and rescue services, will take precedence in the event of a shortage.

Putin has suggested that Germany could solve its gas problem by opening the second gas pipeline that was suspended days before Russia invaded Ukraine, Nord Stream 2.

Gerhard Schröder, the former German chancellor who remains close to Putin despite being sidelined by his own political party, the Social Democrats and many Germans, echoed that proposal. In an interview with the German weekly SternMr. Schröder, who met the Russian president in Moscow last week, also said the Kremlin was open to talks to end the war, on the condition that Ukraine relinquish its claim to Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014, as well as its aspirations. to join NATO.

Asked about the possibility of restarting Nord Stream 2, Scholz stifled a laugh, noting that its twin pipeline running under the Baltic Sea, Nord Stream 1, was already being underutilized, as were other land links through Ukraine, as well as one through Belarus and Poland, which Russia had sanctioned.

“There is enough capacity with Nord Stream 1,” he said. “All the contracts that Russia has concluded for the whole of Europe can be fulfilled with the help of this pipeline.”

Reduced natural gas flows have caused prices in Europe to jump to record highs. They remained about twice as long on Wednesday as they were in mid-June, when Russia began restricting flows through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline.

Christian Bruch, the head of Siemens Energy, who appeared with Scholz, said his company was in regular talks with Gazprom over the turbine issue and was keen to return it so that other Siemens turbines used in the pipeline could also be taken. for maintenance.

But the Russian company has a “different view” of the situation, he said, without elaborating.

“This turbine is ready to go right out of the box,” Scholz said. “If Russia doesn’t take this turbine now, it shows the whole world that not taking it is just an excuse to cut gas supplies to Germany.”

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