European natural gas storage inventories as of 18 April 2020, were 58 per cent full, which is the highest ever recorded level for mid-April, according to Gas Infrastructure Europe (GIE). In spite of the uncertainties in gas demand caused by the current pandemic situation, European gas storage operators ensure the continuity of business operations and keep sight of next winter’s security of supply.
The high level of natural gas in storage around Europe is the result of a mild winter with limited heating demand combined with an already over-supplied market with growing natural gas imports of pipeline gas and liquefied natural gas (LNG). From the beginning of March coronavirus containment measures also hit demand across Europe.
“As soon as the current crisis became apparent, gas storage operators adapted their operation and took the necessary steps to maintain normal business operation and prepare for next winter’s supply,” said László Fritsch, the newly elected President of Gas Storage Europe (GSE), CEO and Chairman of the Board of Hungarian Gas Storage.
He added that after a month, GSE members are confident that during this extraordinary crisis, the gas storage business and the supply of natural gas will continue without disruption.
Managing Director of Uniper Energy Storage and GSE Executive Committee member Axel Wietfeld emphasised that despite some maintenance activities being postponed, business operations will continue during the entire filling season.
“We are committed to managing our business-critical assets with high safety levels and to staying effective in empowering the energy transition in Europe,” Mr Wietfeld commented.
In addition to its crucial role in providing energy security, gas storage could play a special role in achieving Europe’s ambitious climate targets. According to GIE, underground gas storages are an immediate solution to the switch from more carbon-intensive energy carriers to low-carbon and renewable gases, as they can accommodate biomethane and synthetic methane, as well as green hydrogen, without extensive network investment.
With around 1,200 terawatt-hours (TWh) of storage capacity Europe has great potential to create a more flexible hybrid-energy system, where electricity and gas will be more closely integrated. Rethinking the role of European gas infrastructure and storage can contribute significantly to the large scale decarbonisation of the energy system.