Forty-seven German storage facilities can hold up to 23 billion cubic meters of natural gas – about one-fourth of what Germany uses each year. They are now nearly filled with 19.6 billion cubic meters. No other European country has comparable reserves.
Despite growing tensions between Russia and the West, gas importers assume that natural gas will continue flowing from Russia to Germany this winter. “Neither side is interested in making gas part of the conflict,” said Johannes Teyssen, chief executive of the German energy company Eon. “There is no danger of German living rooms becoming cold this winter.” Germany currently imports about one-third of its natural gas from Russia.
While nothing in Germany points to a cold winter, anxiety over natural gas supplies is growing in Eastern Europe. Six European Union countries – Finland, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia – get almost all their natural gas from Russia. In the Czech Republic, the situation is not much better.
“The winter will be cold and expensive,” said one Latvian energy expert. A halt in Russian gas deliveries would present the Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia with severe problems in supplying their populations.
The second largest gas storage facility in Europe is located in the Latvian city of Inčukalns, about 40 kilometers east of Riga, the capital. The national utility company, Latvijas Gaze, started filling the giant reservoir last May. It can hold 2.3 billion cubic meters and could assure the supply of gas in Latvia this winter.