Essen, 26.07.2013. Following the 2012/13 winter with generally average temperatures, a late and sustained period of low temperatures began in large parts of Europe in March of this year, lasting until April. Due to this late wintry period and the resulting high gas withdrawals from storage facilities, many of those facilities in Europe were emptied as far as technically feasible. Moreover, unlike previous years, it was not possible during that period to start injecting gas into the facilities in preparation for the next winter.
Traditionally, the months from March to October are used to replenish gas storage facilities before the next winter season. Gas injection is subject to physical constraints in the pipeline network and the facilities themselves, which means that a large part of the gas cannot be injected in a very short space of time.
This year the market players have started to inject gas at a very late stage, initially using significantly lower quantities than in preceding years. Thus there is a risk in Germany (and in some neighbouring countries) of the 2013/14 winter season starting with storage levels that are very low, taking a multi-year comparison. The fact that several European countries are in a similar situation increases the probability of a critical supply position.
Generally, reliable functioning of the gas supply system depends on the availability of various possibilities (e.g. border crossing points, storage facilities) for feeding gas into the pipeline system. At present, a significantly elevated rate of gas infection by gas suppliers and traders is discernible. However, even if this high rate is continued until November, storage levels comparable to previous years cannot be achieved by the next winter, in Open Grid Europe's opinion. In the course of the coming winter, a situation might therefore occur fairly quickly where storage withdrawal is only possible at a significantly reduced rate. This may be the case particularly in the first quarter of 2014.
If an extremely cold snap then occurs again, as in February 2012, or one or more supply sources are disrupted or completely suspended, as in the 2009 Ukraine crisis, one cannot rule out the possibility of supply restrictions occurring. Nor can the control energy market offset shortfalls if no gas is available from storage facilities and if input options at border crossing points and domestic production sites are fully utilized.
Ensuring security of supply is a joint task for all market players! While infrastructure operators have to make their technical facilities available without any hitches, gas suppliers and traders are called upon to ensure that adequate gas volumes are available throughout the coming winter season. Under Sec. 53a of the Energy Industry Act (EnWG) they are required to safeguard gas supplies for certain customer categories and to make sure that balancing groups are in equilibrium. In Open Grid Europe's view, it is therefore absolutely essential that storage facilities continue to be filled at high injection rates in the coming months and that there are no early withdrawals from storage facilities in the 2013/14 winter season for reasons other than low temperatures.