Putin outsmarted as EU to swerve gas cut with Nigeria deal after Russia sets exact date

Putin's gas war is 'high risk' for Russian economy says Herbst

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A senior EU Commission official has said the bloc will seek to replace some of the plummeting volumes of imported Russian energy with liquified natural gas from Nigeria (LNG). Matthew Baldwin, the deputy director general of the bloc’s energy department, met with officials from Africa’s largest oil producer over the weekend to explore striking a new deal.

This could see the EU boost its imports of LNG, which currently account for 14 percent of its supplies and could reportedly be doubled, according to Mr Baldwin.

Nigeria also told Mr Baldwin it plans to open the Trans Niger pipeline after August to further ramp up gas exports to Europe.

But the nation is currently struggling to produce gas at full capacity, with an LNG terminal located at Bonny Island, in the Niger Delta only operating at 60 percent capacity.

Mr Baldwin said: “If we can get up to beyond 80 percent, at that point, there might be additional LNG that could be available for spot cargoes to come to Europe.”

Last year, Nigeria exported around 23 billion cubic metres (bcm) of gas exports to the EU.

But Russia, which supplies the bloc with 40 percent of its gas, is slashing deliveries to Europe, sparking a crisis.

The Kremlin-controlled gas giant Gazprom yesterday confirmed flows along the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to Germany will dip to just 33 million cubic metres per day – a fifth of the normal capacity – from July 27.

And this was not the first time Moscow sparked panic in Europe, having repeatedly slashed its exports to the bloc.

Last month, Germany, Italy, Austria, Slovakia and the Netherlands all reported lower quantities of Russian gas imports, blaming Western sanctions.

This was because a gas turbine for Nord Stream 1 did not arrive after maintenance in Canada, Moscow claimed.

A second turbine is now showing defects and has been blamed for the impending cut by the Kremlin.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “Yes, indeed, there are some defects with the turbines.

“The turbine has not arrived after a major maintenance, it’s on its way. We hope that it will happen, sooner rather than later.”

The future cut marks a decrease on the already reduced levels of Russian gas flowing into the continent.

In fact, the Kremlin has claimed that Western punishments for Russia’s actions in Ukraine e for Nord Stream 1’s reduced operational capacity.

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Currently only operating at 40 percent, it is now expected to dip to 20 percent.

Mr Peskov said: “The situation is critically complicated by the restrictions and sanctions, which had been imposed against our country.”

Now, there are fears Putin will wage a political war and completely cut off gas supplies into Europe.

EU member states now appear to be bracing for the incoming cuts after approving an emergency plan to limit demand.

A voluntary 15 percent cut in gas consumption from August to May was agreed upon by EU energy ministers today.

But EU Energy Minister Kadri Simson has warned that “if Moscow fully cuts supply in July”, the EU would “face a gap of 45bcm in winter”.

She reassured that the energy saving plan will ensure countries save enough gas to survive an average winter if Russia does turn off the gas tap.

As well as boosting supplies from Nigeria, these backup options lay the “blueprint for coordinated action if Russia cut gas supplies further”, the energy minister added.

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