Full German gas storage no reason to relax on supply - operators
FRANKFURT, Oct 12 (Reuters) - Germany's underground gas storage caverns are over 97% full but it could still run into supply problems in the winter, storage operators group INES said on Thursday, recommending plans to reduce usage are kept on stand-by.
Boosting storage was one of Germany's key responses to being mostly cut off from Russian pipeline gas last year, along with buying more liquefied natural gas (LNG) and cutting consumption, which last winter brought down prices from earlier spikes.
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With underground storage caverns officially 97.4% full - holding 247.9 terawatt hours (TWh) of supply - the sector is well prepared with a back-up lasting a couple of months. But the weather remains a critical factor.
"Even if the gas storage facilities were fully filled again before winter, gas demand could probably no longer be fully met amid extremely cold temperatures and current consumption patterns," INES said.
"Compliance with a legally mandated filling level requirement of 40% by February 1, 2024 will be challenging, even at normal temperatures."
INES' members, which include the Astora company within the SEFE group, VNG Gasspeicher, Uniper, and RWE , hold 25% of European Union gas storage capacity.
INES' worst case scenario, based on the cold European weather in 2010, sees possible German gas supply gaps of 10 TWh in January, 16 TWh in February, and 13 TWh in March 2024.
INES recommended adding to three running floating LNG terminals at Brunsbuettel, Wilhelmshaven and Lubmin, as well as using more west-to-east pipeline and storage capacity inside continental Europe.
The German ports of Mukran, Stade and Wilhelmshaven are due to add floating regasification facilities for LNG tankers.
Daily gas usage peaked last December at 4.8 TWh, driven by cold weather and high home heating usage. (Reporting by Vera Eckert Editing by Rachel More and Mark Potter)