EU tables plan to certify gas storage operators, threatening Russia’s Gazprom

With a storage capacity of 3.9 billion cubic meters, the Rehden storage facility in Germany is the largest natural gas storage facility in Western Europe. Astora belongs to Gazprom Germania. [EPA-EFE/FOCKE STRANGMANN]

A new mandatory certification scheme for owners of gas storage infrastructure was tabled by the European Commission on Wednesday (23 March), warning that those posing a security risk to Europe will have to give up ownership or cede control of facilities.

The new certification scheme “will avoid potential risks resulting from outside influence over critical storage infrastructure,” the European Commission said.

“Gazprom-owned or not, all storage facilities should go through a certification process” to demonstrate they are not putting the EU’s energy security at risk, said a senior EU official who briefed the press.

This means that “non-certified operators will have to give up ownership or control of EU gas storage facilities,” the EU executive added in their statement.

The new certification scheme aims to prevent a repeat of summer 2021 when Gazprom did not replenish its European gas storage facilities ahead of the winter season.

“Gazprom-owned storage was far below the levels of filling compared to non-Gazprom owned. So that’s an indication,” the official explained.

Russian state-owned monopoly Gazprom operates gas storage facilities in Germany, the Netherlands, Austria and other European countries outside the EU. It is suspected of having deliberately kept its storage at a low level during the summer preceding the invasion of Ukraine.

As part of its new gas storage regulation, the Commission also proposes introducing a minimum 80% gas storage level obligation for next winter to ensure the security of energy supply, rising to 90% for the following years.

To incentivise the refilling of EU gas storage facilities, the Commission also proposes a 100% discount on tariffs at entry and exit points of storage facilities. Until now, it was only possible to offer a discount of up to 50%, but not to totally eliminate them, the official explained.

Gas storage typically covers 25-30% of EU gas consumption in a typical winter and plays a key role in guaranteeing the EU’s security of supply, the Commission says.

“Global and European energy markets are going through turbulent times, particularly since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Europe needs to take swift action to ensure our energy supply for next winter,” said Kadri Simson, the EU’s energy commissioner.

LEAK: EU to mandate 90% gas storage refill for coming winters

The European Commission is expected to table proposals on Wednesday (23 March) obliging EU countries to fill up their gas stores at least 80% next winter and 90% in the following years, as well as introducing a new certification scheme to prevent manipulation of gas storage by foreign operators.

[Edited by Alice Taylor]

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