Aug. 31 (UPI) — Russia shut down its main gas pipeline to Europe for three days Wednesday amid one of the worst energy crises the European Union has faced in recent memory — a move that led to immediate speculation of whether its claims of making repairs were true.
The state-owned energy giant Gazprom, which first announced the shutdown earlier this month, said fixes were needed to the only remaining compressor at the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, and that those repairs would take place from Aug. 31 to Sept. 3.
As part of the shutdown, Gazprom also suspended gas shipments to the French energy company Engie, a move that led French Energy Transition Minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher to accuse Russia of “using gas as a weapon of war,” according to BBC News.
Since the start of the Ukraine war, Russia has choked off gas supplies to Europe through the pipeline, which has been cited alongside inflation and the COVID-19 pandemic as one of the major factors squeezing the world economy.
Russia, however, denies that it is manipulating the market, but Wednesday’s move to shutter the pipeline comes a month after Russia shut down the Nord Stream 1 pipeline for 10 days in July, which it also claimed was due to repairs.
Since then, Russia has cut gas flow to only 20% capacity and blamed faulty equipment for the shortage.
A Kremlin spokesperson recently asserted that U.S. sanctions have led to the deterioration of the country’s infrastructure, and that ongoing “technological problems” were preventing normal operations with the pipeline.
But German officials said they have examined the pipeline and found it fully operational with none of the issues that Russia had claimed.
The Nord Stream 1, which opened in 2011, spans 745 miles — setting out from the Russian coast near St. Petersburg, it travels beneath the Baltic Sea before reemerging in northeast Germany, with the capability to deliver nearly 45,000 gallons of gas per day.
German regulators expressed hope that the economy could withstand this latest suspension, but said that would depend on gas flow resuming on time.
The consequences could be devastating, however, if the outage lasts beyond three days, with inflation hitting an all-time record of 9.1% in the Eurozone last month as soaring energy costs consume most of Europe.
With affordability shrinking, some anticipate that EU governments could soon be faced with spending billions of dollars to offset cost of living expenses, especially during the winter months when heating becomes a matter of survival.
A surplus of gas is reportedly being stored away in underground tanks for emergency use.
“Europe is in full bunkering mode and taking no chances with Russian supplies heading into the winter,” said Rystad Energy analyst Wei Xiong, according to CNBC.
Another controversy involving the pipeline emerged earlier this month when Russia used sanctions as an excuse in refusing to take back a defective turbine sent to Canada for repairs.