This winter there is still enough gas, but the danger has not passed

This winter there is still enough gas, but the danger has not passed

A few weeks ago they were still overcrowded. But now that the cold is starting to travel across the country, the Gasunie gas company’s stocks are dwindling dramatically right away. Right now, gas stores are about 10 percent more emptied than they were two months ago, a Gasunie spokesperson confirmed after reporting from ad. It’s been especially hard these past few days.

In “normal” times nobody cares. It also makes sense that stocks run low in the winter – that’s exactly what you’re used to. As it gets colder, more is burned and so gas consumption increases (dramatically). In this case, the shares must always be ordered.

“But now everything is on edge,” says a spokesman for the gas company. They refer to the energy crisis Russia has caused in Europe since the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. As the Kremlin has cut off gas supplies to Europe since the summer, there have been concerns about looming shortages this winter. According to politicians and energy experts, well-stocked gas storage facilities are the key to getting through this winter. So fluctuations are followed by doubt.

Two months ago, politicians and energy experts rejoiced that inventories had filled to historic, and therefore safe, levels. The question now is whether they don’t run out too quickly. and whether the Netherlands will still have problems. Due to the huge interest, Gasunie has developed a dashboard where everyone can monitor the filling level from day to day.

Gasunie is short and sweet about the current decline in stocks: it’s similar to the cooler periods of previous years, so there’s nothing to worry about, according to the spokesperson. “Even if we get an Elfsteden winter, we’ll still have our feet warm in principle.” New deliveries also continue to arrive to replenish stocks.

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Consumption exploded

She also says that the increase in gas consumption is not a cause for concern at the present time. That consumption may have increased explosively — by 30 percent in two weeks. But this, too, is comparable to similar cold spells in previous years. In fact, it’s a little lower, because Dutch homes and businesses try to save energy, for example by lowering the thermostat. A spokesperson for the energy company Eneco confirms this: “Despite the cooler weather, the savings achieved still reasonably stand.”

Research by consulting firm Wood Mackenzie, published on Wednesday, shows that this trend holds across Europe, although there are differences between countries. Because of “behavioural changes,” or savings, average gas consumption in European countries is now 16% lower than in previous similar cold spells, the advisory reports. “The warehouses are holding up well despite the cold,” the office said.

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However, that doesn’t mean there’s absolutely no cause for concern – and they know it at Gasunie. And the smaller the stocks, the greater the chance of problems during the coming winter, i.e. 2023/2024. Large stocks should also be made for this winter. But this will be more difficult if the “starting point” at the start of the next filling season is low: when Holland exits this winter with only a small amount of gas left in storage. A very long, cold winter can be a problem.

The most complicating factor is that the next filling season will be more difficult to obtain replacement gas for the Russian gas that has disappeared. European countries have now bought a lot of liquefied gas, including from the United States and Qatar, to fill their storages. Next year, there could be formidable competitors preying on this gas: China, for example. If the Chinese economy starts to grow again, that country will also need a lot of gas.

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to caution

The International Energy Agency has already warned of this scenario. And it did so again this week, when the head of that organization, Fatih Birol, visited European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. Birol warned that Europe could face a shortfall of 30 billion cubic meters of gas during the winter of 2023/2024 – nearly 10 percent of total EU consumption.

In light of these risks, Ghazouni announced at the beginning of this week that, on behalf of the Ministry of Economic Affairs, he would explore possibilities for “additional temporary expansion” in the ability to import LNG, including through the port. from Terneuzen. This extra capacity should ensure “that there is also an adequate supply of gas next year” and avoid problems during the following winters.

This liquefied gas must be present. In any case, the intention shows that uncertainty will remain high for the time being – and that high energy prices probably won’t go away either. How long will the scarcity last? The company is currently taking on “three more winters,” says a Gasunie spokesperson.

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