The EU's new rules on minimum gas storage obligations, which will require member states to fill storage sites to at least 80% of capacity by Nov. 1 this year, are set to come into force after final approval from the EU Council.
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The Council said June 27 it had definitively adopted the regulation, which aims to ensure that gas storage sites in the EU are filled before the winter season and that stocks can be shared between member states "in a spirit of solidarity."
The regulation will be published shortly in the EU's Official Journal and will enter into force on the day after its publication. The Council's approval follows sign-off by the European Parliament on June 23.
"Having concluded negotiations in less than two months, the EU now has a tool which requires all member states to have adequate gas storage for the winter period and which makes it easier for countries to share," Agnes Pannier-Runacher, France's energy transition minister, said.
France holds the presidency of the EU until the end of June.
"I welcome this highly operational regulation which, in the current international context, allows us to reinforce Europe's energy resilience and solidarity among member states," Pannier-Runacher said.
EU stocks were built to just 77% of capacity in October 2021 and were drawn down to 25% by the end of winter in March, according to GIE data. EU gas storage sites were 55.7% full as of June 25, according to the GIE.
Concerns about filling storage sites this summer contributed to record-high prices across Europe in recent months.
The TTF month-ahead price reached a record Eur212.15/MWh on March 8, according to Platts price assessments by S&P Global Commodity Insights.
It was last assessed on June 24 at Eur129/MWh, up 56% since the start of the month and 310% higher year on year, according to S&P Global data.
The new regulation provides that gas storage sites must be filled to at least 80% of their capacity by Nov. 1, 2022, and to 90% by Nov. 1 in subsequent years.
Overall, the EU will attempt collectively to fill 85% of the total underground gas storage capacity in the EU in 2022, the Council said.
As gas storage capacities and national situations vary greatly, depending on their situation, member states will be able to partially meet the storage target by counting stocks of LNG or alternative fuels, it said.
In addition, to reflect the situation of member states with very large storage capacities compared to their domestic gas consumption, the filling obligation for underground stocks will be limited to a volume corresponding to 35% of the average annual gas consumption of member states over the last five years.
Some member states do not have storage facilities, so the regulation provides that they should store 15% of their annual domestic gas consumption in stocks located in other member states.
"This mechanism will strengthen the security of their gas supply while also sharing the financial burden involved in filling the EU's storage capacities," the Council said.
The regulation also provides for compulsory certification of all underground gas storage site operators.
"The aim of this certification is to avoid the potential risks of external influence on critical storage infrastructures, which could jeopardize the security of the EU's energy supply," the Council said.
This is likely a reference to those sites that were formerly owned by Gazprom, such as Rehden in Germany and Haidach in Austria, which were left close to empty last winter.
A fast-track certification procedure is to apply for storage sites with capacities above 3.5 TWh that were filled at levels below the EU average in 2020 and 2021.
Storage capacity filling obligations will come to an end on Dec. 31, 2025, but stock operator certification obligations will continue to apply beyond that date, the Council said.
A derogation is to be granted to Cyprus, Malta and Ireland as long as they are not directly interconnected with the gas system of other member states, it added.