September 23, 2021

High Natural Gas Prices Strain Europeans, Weighing on Recovery

Adding to the tight situation in Europe, Groningen, the giant gas field in the Netherlands that long served as a safety valve for both its home country and western Germany, is being gradually shut down because of earthquakes. Over the last year European gas prices have risen from around $4 per million British thermal units to about $18.

Russia, the largest gas supplier to Europe, and Algeria have substantially increased their exports but not enough to ease market concerns. Some analysts question whether Gazprom, Russia’s gas company, is pursuing a high-price strategy or trying to persuade the West to allow the completion of its Nord Stream 2 pipeline project, which will deliver gas from Russia to Germany.

“On the face of it, it looks as though some sort of game is being played here,” said Graham Freedman, an analyst at Wood Mackenzie. On the other hand, Mr. Freedman said, it could be that Gazprom doesn’t have any more gas to export.

A spokeswoman for Gazprom said: “Our mission is to fulfill contractual obligations to our clients, not to ‘reduce the concerns’ of an abstract market.” She added that Gazprom had increased supplies to near-record levels this year.

Construction of the 746-mile pipeline, which runs under the Baltic Sea, was halted last year just short of completion off Germany’s shores by the threat of sanctions from the United States. But in a deal with Germany in July, the Biden administration agreed to drop its threat to stop the pipeline. On Monday, the management company for the project said it aimed to have the pipeline operating this year.

Stanley Reed reported from London, and Raphael Minder from Madrid.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/08/business/europe-natural-gas-prices.html

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