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Key gas pipeline from Russia to Europe restarts after break

The Nord Stream 1 pipeline to Germany had been closed since July 11 for annual maintenance work.

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The landfall facility of the Nord Stream 1 Baltic Sea pipeline in Lubmin, Germany (Markus Schreiber/AP)

The landfall facility of the Nord Stream 1 Baltic Sea pipeline in Lubmin, Germany (Markus Schreiber/AP)

The landfall facility of the Nord Stream 1 Baltic Sea pipeline in Lubmin, Germany (Markus Schreiber/AP)

Natural gas has started flowing through a major pipeline from Russia to Europe after a 10-day shutdown for maintenance, the operator said.

But the gas flow is expected to fall well short of full capacity.

The Nord Stream 1 pipeline to Germany had been closed since July 11 for annual maintenance work.

Amid growing tensions over Russia’s war in Ukraine, German officials had feared that the pipeline — the country’s main source of Russian gas, which has accounted for around a third of Germany’s gas supplies — might not reopen at all.

Operator Nord Stream AG said gas started flowing again on Thursday morning but the flow would take a while to ramp up, German news agency dpa reported.

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The sun rises behind the landfall facility of the Nord Stream 1 Baltic Sea pipeline and the transfer station of the OPAL gas pipeline, the Baltic Sea Pipeline Link, in Lubmin, Germany (Markus Schreiber/AP)

The sun rises behind the landfall facility of the Nord Stream 1 Baltic Sea pipeline and the transfer station of the OPAL gas pipeline, the Baltic Sea Pipeline Link, in Lubmin, Germany (Markus Schreiber/AP)

AP/PA Images

The sun rises behind the landfall facility of the Nord Stream 1 Baltic Sea pipeline and the transfer station of the OPAL gas pipeline, the Baltic Sea Pipeline Link, in Lubmin, Germany (Markus Schreiber/AP)

Deliveries are expected to fall well below the pipeline’s full capacity.

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Nord Stream said a similar amount of gas was expected to that seen before maintenance.

The head of Germany’s network regulator, Klaus Mueller, said on Twitter that Russia’s Gazprom said Thursday’s deliveries would amount to about 30% of the pipeline’s capacity.

In mid-June, Russia’s state-owned Gazprom cut the flow to 40% of capacity.

It cited alleged technical problems involving equipment that partner Siemens Energy sent to Canada for overhaul and could not be returned because of sanctions imposed over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The Canadian government earlier this month gave permission for the turbine that powers a compressor station at the Russian end of the pipeline to be delivered to Germany.

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Barbed wire secures the entrance of the harbour area where the landfall of the Nord Stream 1 Baltic Sea pipeline is located (Markus Schreiber/AP)

Barbed wire secures the entrance of the harbour area where the landfall of the Nord Stream 1 Baltic Sea pipeline is located (Markus Schreiber/AP)

AP/PA Images

Barbed wire secures the entrance of the harbour area where the landfall of the Nord Stream 1 Baltic Sea pipeline is located (Markus Schreiber/AP)

The German government has rejected Gazprom’s technical explanation for the gas reduction, saying repeatedly it was a pretext for a political decision to sow uncertainty and further push up energy prices.

It has said the turbine was a replacement that was only supposed to be installed in September, but that it is doing everything to deprive Russia of the pretext to reduce supplies.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday that Gazprom still had not received the relevant documents for the turbine’s return — a claim repeated on Wednesday by Gazprom.

Mr Putin said Gazprom was to shut another turbine for repairs in late July, and if the one that was sent to Canada was not returned by then the flow of gas would ebb even more.

The head of the European Union’s executive Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said on Wednesday the turbine was “in transit” and there was “no pretext not to deliver” gas.

The Commission proposed that member countries cut their gas use by 15% over the coming months as the bloc braces for a possible full Russian cut-off of gas supplies.

Simone Tagliapietra, an energy policy expert at the Bruegel think tank in Brussels, said Russia was playing a “strategic game.”

He said: “Keeping low flows going is better than cutoff. It decreases Europe’s resolve to reduce gas demand.” he said.

He warned that Europe must go into crisis mode anyway “because an interruption is likely to happen in the winter. And each cubic metre of gas saved now makes Europe more resilient in the next months”.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said: “Today underlines — even if there’s an announcement that gas is flowing again — that this war isn’t only being conducted with weapons against Ukraine, but that hybrid warfare means also using energy dependency as a means of war.”


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