Over half of Russian natural gas supply to Europe's major markets via Germany and Slovakia has gone missing this calendar year compared with 2019 levels, an analysis of S&P Global Platts Analytics data showed.
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With Yamal exports through Poland non-existent, and capacity through Ukraine being under-utilized, now even the Nord Stream pipeline system has eased back from its usual maximum-baseload delivery of Russian volumes to Europe.
The data showed that exports landing into Griefswald and Mallnow in Germany, and Velke Kapusany, Slovakia, averaged 174.689 million cu m/d in the Jan. 3-7 period, down 55.13% on average compared with the same window in 2019.
This includes zero deliveries into the Yamal terminus at Mallow, and a 147.768 million cu m/d average for Nord Stream into Griefswald, down from its usual 158 million cu m/d baseload.
The remainder constitutes exports via Ukraine, with Ukrainian exit capacity at Velke Kapusany held by Russia currently being utilized at around 38% of the long-term agreement between the two countries.
After months of an extreme market environment characterized by record high wholesale prices and unprecedented volatility, Russia's role in fostering this situation is beginning to be recognized by leading analysts.
Writing to a social media audience Jan. 13, Executive Director of the International Energy Agency Fath Birol said: "We see strong elements of artificial tightness in European gas markets, which appears to be due to the behavior of Russia's state-controlled gas supplier."
"Against today's low baseline, we estimate that Russia could increase deliveries to Europe by at least one-third, or over 3 Bcm per month," Birol said, equating this to 10% of the EU's average monthly gas consumption, or the arrival of one full LNG vessel delivering to the region every day.
In the same post, Birol called assertions that volatility in gas and power markets was due to the clean energy transition "misleading... to say the least," instead calling it a "natural gas market crisis."
Lower Russian exports to Europe have taken place amid growing geopolitical tensions between Russia and Ukraine, as well as an ongoing regulatory approval process for Russia's Nord Stream 2 pipeline system, which was recently suspended by German energy regulator BNetzA.
While Europe is yet to find itself physically short of gas during the current gas year, which began in October and heralded the period of volatility, the risk of price spikes deeper into the winter still underpin the extreme price environment.
Russia's Gazprom Export is understood to hold just over 10% of total European storage space. According to Gas Infrastructure Europe data, its GSA facility in Austria is currently 8.79% full, while its Rehden facility in German is just 6.48% full.
It was widely reported in the fourth quarter of 2021 that Russian president Vladimir Putin had instructed Gazprom to replenish its stocks in Europe.
Overall, GIE reported that European storage facilities were 49.33% full at 54.452 Bcm on Jan. 12, and experienced an extraction of 2.283 Bcm in the three-day period between Jan. 10-12.
If the current rate of withdrawal is sustained, Europe's reserves could be fully depleted by the end of winter delivery.
The "Beast from the East" weather system in March 2018, which spiked UK spot gas prices to their pre-2021 record on March 1, 2018, occurred when European storage was 28.12% full, GIE data showed, with UK stocks at 42.84% by the end of that day.
"If we don't get Nord Stream 2 and Russia keeps flowing this low.. [we are] certainly good for a huge spike in March if 2018 repeats itself," a German gas trader said.
"[It] all depends on when [cold spells] will come."
While other factors have contributed to Europe's sizable year-on-year storage deficit, cumulative Russian exports to German and Slovakia are on course to be some 60 Bcm lower since April 2019 compared to storage year 2018 levels. This includes a linear extrapolation the current average delivery between April 1, 2021 and Jan. 7, 2022 until storage year 2021 ends on March 31, 2022.
This figure could therefore be even greater come the end of the storage year at the current rate of export, and overwhelmingly the largest deficit compared to other potential sources.