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Home News Russia’s alarming hold over German energy infrastructure

Russia’s alarming hold over German energy infrastructure

Published on 11/04/2022
Written by Sophie MAKRIS
Published from

The war in Ukraine has exposed not only Germany’s dependence on Russian gas, but also the large share of Russian capital in the country’s oil refineries, pipelines and other gas infrastructure.

he war in Ukraine has exposed not only Germany’s dependence on Russian gas, but also the large share of Russian capital in the country’s oil refineries, pipelines and other gas infrastructure.
he German subsidiaries of Russian giants Gazprom and Rosneft are key players in the energy landscape of Europe’s biggest economy.

Energy deals with Russia were long seen as part of a German policy of keeping the peace through cooperation with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime, but that approach now lies in “ruins”, according to Der Spiegel magazine.

German politicians now “have to face the fact that they have not brought on board agents of change within Russia, but possibly also Trojan horses of the Kremlin”, the magazine said.

– Gas storage –

In early April, the German government took the unprecedented step of temporarily taking control of Gazprom’s German subsidiary, after an opaque transfer of ownership of the company sent alarm bells ringing in Berlin.

Economy Minister Robert Habeck justified the radical move by saying it served “public order and national security”.

Gazprom’s Rehden gas storage facility in Lower Saxony state alone accounts for around 20 percent of Germany’s total gas storage capacity.
he Rehden facility was owned by the German group BASF until 2015, when it was sold to Astora, a subsidiary of Gazprom.

It has a capacity of four billion cubic metres and bills itself as the largest gas storage facility in Europe.

However, its tanks are currently only 0.5 percent full, with Gazprom suspected of having deliberately kept levels low ahead of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Astora has additional storage facilities in Jemgum, on the border with the Netherlands, and in Haidach, Austria.

Gazprom Germania also has a stake in a large salt cavern storage facility near Hamburg.

– Distribution networks –

Gascade, one of the largest gas distribution network operators in Germany, is 50.03-percent owned by Gazprom Germania.

he company describes its network of 3,200 kilometres (2,000 miles) of pipelines delivering gas to cities across the whole of Germany as “the hub of European natural gas transport”.

On its website, Gascade says its “transport business is not subject to the influence of the Gazprom Group or any other shareholder”.

Other important pieces of the puzzle, such as the North European NEL pipeline and the Baltic Sea OPAL pipeline, are owned by the company Wiga Transport, which in turn is 49.98-percent owned by Gazprom Germania.
he remaining stakes in Gascade and Wiga Transport are held by the German Wintershall Dea Group — which is one-third owned by Russian oligarch Mikhail Fridman, a target of recent Western sanctions.

Wingas, another company wholly owned by Gazprom Germania, also has a market share of around 20 percent and plays a crucial role in the distribution of gas to German municipal utilities, industrial companies and power plants.

Gazprom Germania is due to stay under state control until September 30, by which time the government must decide between nationalisation or sale to a new owner.

– Oil refineries –
he German subsidiary of Rosneft claims to account for a quarter of all German crude oil imports and has a majority stake the PCK refinery in Schwedt, northeast of Berlin.
he PCK refinery can process about 11.6 million tonnes of crude oil per year, which amounts to about 11 percent of Germany’s total oil consumption.

In late 2021, Rosneft announced plans to increase its stake in the PCK refinery from 54 to 92 percent by buying shares from Dutch-Anglo group Shell.

Germany’s Federal Cartel Office approved the transaction a few days before the outbreak of the war but the Economy Ministry is examining whether it can still be stopped.

Rosneft Germany also holds 24 and almost 29 percent stakes in the two large Miro and Bayernoil refineries in southern Germany.

Like Gazprom for the gas sector, Rosneft is a major distributor in the oil sector, supplying 4,000 major customers in Germany, according to the Handelsblatt daily.