Major gas pipeline Nord Stream 1 shuts down amid German suspicion of Russia

A major gas pipeline from Russia to Germany shut down for annual maintenance on Monday, as Berlin grew concerned that Moscow may not resume the flow of gas as scheduled.

The Nord Stream 1 pipeline, Germany’s main source of Russian gas, is scheduled to be out of action until July 21 for routine work that the operator says includes “testing of mechanical elements and automation systems”.

The operator’s data showed the gas flow dropping as planned on Monday morning.

But German officials are suspicious about Russia’s intentions, particularly after Russia’s Gazprom last month reduced the gas flow through Nord Stream 1 by 60 percent.

Gazprom cited technical problems involving a gas turbine powering a compressor station that partner Siemens Energy sent to Canada for overhaul.

That turbine could not be returned because of sanctions imposed over Russia’s war on Ukraine.

Canada said over the weekend that it would allow the part to be delivered to Germany, citing the “very significant hardship” that the German economy would suffer without a sufficient gas supply.

German politicians have dismissed Russia’s technical explanation for last month’s reduction in gas flows through Nord Stream 1, saying the decision was a political gambit to sow uncertainty and push up prices.

German Vice-Chancellor Robert Habeck had said he suspects that Russia may cite “some little technical detail” as a reason not to resume gas deliveries through the pipeline after this month’s maintenance.

However, a spokesperson for the economy ministry said that while Germany is in a serious situation when it comes to its gas supply, the security of supply is currently guaranteed.

Meanwhile, Germany and the rest of Europe are scrambling to fill gas storage in time for winter and reduce their dependence on Russian energy imports.

Germany, home to Europe’s biggest economy, has been getting about 35 percent of its gas to power industry and generate electricity from Russia.