Wednesday, 6 July, 2022
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Germany races to stockpile gas before winter

UNTERREIT: Germany's race to wean itself off Russian energy and stockpile enough gas before winter is playing out largely hidden from view, some 1,600 metres (one mile) below ground in the foothills of the Bavarian Alps.

Surrounded by rolling farmland near the banks of the river Inn, the former Bierwang natural gas field in Unterreit serves as one of Germany's largest underground gas storage facilities, reports AFP.

Run by German operator Uniper, Bierwang can hold more than 800 million cubic metres of gas -- enough to power the nearby city of Munich for eight months.

Like other storage sites, Bierwang replenishes its stocks between winters, to keep homes heated and Germany's energy-hungry industry humming during the cold months when demand is highest.

But this year, the stakes are higher than ever.

With the war in Ukraine raging and Moscow increasingly seen as an unreliable supplier, governments across Europe are scrambling to store supplies before Moscow decides to reduce the flow of gas, or close the taps altogether.

"The security of supply this winter will depend on two factors: how full the storage facilities are and how much new gas keeps arriving" from abroad, said Sebastian Herold, a professor of energy economics at the Darmstadt University of Applied Sciences.

Russian deliveries will play a "decisive role" in this, Herold said.

Efforts by successive German governments to build closer economic ties with Moscow have left the country hooked on Russian energy imports, a policy now widely seen as misguided.