Russia's Gazprom expects to have 1 Bcm of gas stored at its sites in Europe by the end of December, company chief Alexei Miller said late Dec. 29, a level significantly below that of recent years.
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Russian President Vladimir Putin in late October asked Gazprom to begin restocking at five sites in Europe -- thought to be Rehden, Katharina, Jemgum, and Etzel in Germany and Haidach in Austria -- once it had completed its domestic storage injection program on Nov. 8.
Gazprom also has access to storage in the Netherlands, Czech Republic and Serbia.
"In November and December, Mr President, on your instructions, Gazprom injected its own gas into underground storage facilities in Europe," Miller told Putin at a meeting Dec. 29.
"At the end of December, the volume of this gas will be 1 Bcm," he said.
That level is well down on previous years. In September 2020, Gazprom said it planned to inject almost 9 Bcm of gas into storage in Europe in preparation for the winter.
And in 2019, Gazprom planned to build stocks in Europe of at least 11.4 Bcm given the threat -- ultimately unfulfilled -- of disruption to Russian flows to Europe via Ukraine as the 10-year transit agreement from 2009 expired.
The reduced level of Gazprom stocks in Europe in 2021 has kept overall European storage levels low.
According to data from Gas Infrastructure Europe, stocks were just 56% full as of Dec. 28, compared with a level of 75% a year ago.
The low levels of storage as well as lower-than-expected Russian supplies have helped push European gas prices to record highs in recent weeks.
The TTF day-ahead price hit an all-time high of Eur182.78/MWh ($60.36/MMBtu) on Dec. 21, an increase of 985% year on year, according to S&P Global Platts price assessments.
Prices have cooled since, with the TTF day-ahead contract assessed Dec. 29 at Eur88.30/MWh on milder weather and an expected increase in LNG imports.
While its European stocks remain extremely low, Gazprom built domestic storage stocks to a record high level in 2021.
It reached its target for filling domestic gas storage sites to 72.638 Bcm at the end of October and continued the program until Nov. 8.
Miller said Dec. 29 that Russian storage sites were currently 83% full.
"Since the second week of December in Russia there has been a sharp decrease in air temperatures," he said.
"The supply of gas to Russian consumers and the withdrawal of gas from underground storage facilities in Russia were the maximum in the last 10 years, since 2012," he said.
Miller said 12.36 Bcm of gas -- or 17% of the operational storage stocks -- had been withdrawn from sites in Russia already this winter.
"Today, Russia's underground storage facilities are 83% full," he said.
During the 2020-21 heating season, 60.6 Bcm was withdrawn from Russian storage sites -- the heaviest withdrawal rate on record in Russia.
That meant Gazprom needed record levels of injection to hit the all-time high volume of 72.638 Bcm achieved at the end of October.
It has also raised the potential maximum daily withdrawal rate for its Russian sites to an unprecedented level of 847.9 million cu m/d.
Russia's heavy domestic storage requirements were said to have been a factor in Gazprom's lower-than-expected supplies to Europe this summer.