Establishing Dominance: Russia Reverses Flow of Natural Gas From Key Pipeline Into Europe

Reuters reported that part of a key pipeline transporting natural gas​ from Russia to Europe suddenly reversed it flow direction on Tuesday. 

Data from the European firm Gascade showed gas flows in the Yamal-Europe pipeline, which sends natural gas to Germany via Poland, were recorded going eastward away from Europe on Tuesday morning, Reuters reported. Gascade, the German network operator was showing flows from Germany were leaving at a whopping 4.3 million kilowatt-hours per hour at one section of the pipeline.

The Yamal-Europe pipeline is operated by the Russian state-owned energy giant Gazprom and is one of three routes the company uses to export natural gas to western Europe. The Yamal-Europe natural gas pipeline connects Russian natural gas fields in the Yamal Peninsula and Western Siberia with Poland and Germany, through Belarus. The Yamal-Europe pipeline is responsible for 10% of the region’s natural gas supplies, meaning a substantial flow shift could lead to much higher energy prices for many European consumers, especially Germany.

The most recent Eurostat data ​shows that overall, Russia is responsible for approximately 47% of European gas imports.

International Energy Agency (IEA) Executive Director Fatih Birol told the Guardian in an interview last month, “If Russia stops the gas supply to Europe, it could have a seismic impact on European energy. Russia has to consider the consequences if existing oil and gas supplies to Europe are halted.”

But the European Union has vowed to cut Russian natural gas imports by more than 65% by 2023 in light of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in late February, CNBC reported. The German government also halted its review of the completed Nord Stream 2 pipeline which would be a direct pipeline to Europe from Russian beneath the Baltic Sea.

U.S. Senior Advisor for Energy Security, Amos J. Hochstein said in October, “Russia has previously shown signs of using Western reliance on its energy for geopolitical reasons and even as a weapon.”

Hochstein also remarked at the time, “I think we are getting close to that line if Russia indeed has the gas to supply and it chooses not to, and it will only do so if Europe accedes to other demands that are completely unrelated.”

Hochstein continued, “There is no doubt in my mind and the IEA has itself validated, that the only supplier that can really make a big difference for European energy security at the moment for this winter is Russia.”

On March 8, President Joe Biden announced that the U.S. would immediately ban the import of all Russian oil and petroleum products, a significant chunk of the nation’s total imports and supply.

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