Gas reserves worry some of our neighbors: and in Belgium?

Gas reserves in Europe are declining and, depending on the country, are reaching particularly low values. “Worrying,” some say. And in Belgium? Should we be concerned?

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The level of gas supplies alerts our neighbors. In Germany, the Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate ruled that inventories had fallen to “worrying” levels. Reserves are actually about 35% of capacity, up from 40% recently and 82% in 2020. Something to sow some panic while winter isn’t over yet.

In the Netherlands, gas reserves are currently at 25% of their capacity, according to GIE Aggregated Gas Storage Inventory data.

A decline that began in spring 2021

In general, European gas reserves currently account for 35%. As our colleagues at Echo explain, they were typically 51% back then. The decline started in spring 2021 with significant demand driven by the economic recovery.

Russian gas imports have also fallen. As a reminder, Russia is the main gas supplier to many European countries. Data that makes all the more worrying that tensions between Russia and the West over Ukraine are not easing. In Germany, for example, more than 55% of imports come from Russia. “Should the conflict in Ukraine escalate and Russia actually stop supplying Germany, we face a new gas crisis,” he warned the Berlin business institute DIW, end of January.

And in Belgium?

Fluxys Belgium manages the gas transport network in our flat country. His strategic reserve is in Loenhout, near the border with the Netherlands. As our colleagues from the Nieuwsblad remind us, every year the authorities, in this case the Federal Minister for Energy, indicate the percentage of reserves that need to be replenished for the coming winter. Something that France and Italy do, but not Germany and the Netherlands. According to the Flemish daily, Energy Minister Tinne Van Der Straeten instructed Fluxys to plan storage capacity at 90% last summer. Target already reached in mid-October.

How about today? ” Our petrol tanks in Loenhout are still 30% full “, indicates Laurent Remy, spokesman for the gas infrastructure manager, interviewed by our Flemish colleagues. A number ” slightly below the average of the last five years “. However, Fluxys does not express concern. The relatively mild winter made it possible to curb demand. But as our colleagues at Echo point out, that number is a far cry from the 86% filled reserves in the UK in early February.

These fill rates don’t tell the whole story ” specifies the Echo. In fact, our strategic reserve in Loenhout represents just a little less than 5% of Belgium’s annual consumption. Against a maximum storage capacity equal to almost 25% of the annual consumption in France and Germany.

Belgium is therefore particularly dependent on imports from neighboring countries. But it is poorly supplied by Russia. According to Nieuwsblad, just under 4%. The majority of our gas actually comes from fields in the North Sea.

Finally, our Flemish colleagues point to a recent change in the law. Thanks to short-term contracts, Belgium was able to react more quickly to international price fluctuations. And so rebuild strategic inventory at lower cost when prices have fallen.

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