Austria plans to draw gas from facility serving Germany as EU hunts for energy

Haidach tank seized from Russian gas giant Gazprom could be connected to Austrian grid

Austria took over control of the Haidach storage tank from Russian gas company Gazprom. AFP
Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

Austria said it will begin drawing gas from a storage tank that serves its neighbour Germany, as European countries build their stocks before winter.

Although physically on Austria's territory, the underground Haidach tank formerly operated by Russian exporter Gazprom supplies gas to Bavaria, a state of 13 million people in southern Germany.

Leonore Gewessler, Austrian Minister for Climate Action, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology, told Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper that Vienna wanted a share of that gas.

“We have decided that all storage tanks on Austrian territory must be connected to our grid,” she said. “The tanks are our main security blanket for the winter.”

German officials reacted cautiously to the news. Bavarian Minister of Economic Affairs Hubert Aiwanger raised no objection but said it was important that the tank be filled more quickly.

Five storage facilities in Bavaria are increasing their stocks and “now the tank in Haidach has to be filled up, too,” Mr Aiwanger's ministry quoted him as saying.

The German power grid regulator said there was an agreement between the two countries covering the use of storage tanks.

Austria moved to get gas from Haidach after Russia invaded Ukraine, taking control under a “use it or lose it” principle after accusing Gazprom of failing to fill the tank.

Haidach is about 58 per cent full just now, below the average for Austria and Germany, with three months left to hit the EU's target of 80 per cent storage before winter.

German Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck and Austrian Energy Minister Leonore Gewessler recently held talks in Vienna. Reuters

Russian gas is still flowing to Germany, which re-exports some of it to Austria, through the trans-Baltic Nord Stream 1 pipeline but at a reduced level.

Gazprom blamed the deficit on technical problems, but Germany said these were a pretext and ministers said that Nord Stream could be switched off.

The EU last week told its members they should reduce gas consumption by 15 per cent to weather the possible shortages but the plan has run into opposition.

Greece said it did not agree with a provision that could make the reductions mandatory. Finland said opinion was divided on the initiative and that it had already reduced its gas consumption so far that no more cuts were needed.

The bloc's 27 energy ministers were to discuss the proposals in Brussels yesterday. Permanent representatives held talks on Monday.

An amended proposal leaked to Reuters would mean national governments, rather than the European Commission, decide when the 15 per cent target would become binding.

Some countries that did not rely on Russian gas before the Ukraine war, including Ireland, Malta, Spain and Portugal, could also be granted exemptions.

Updated: July 25, 2022, 1:44 PM