By Francesca Landini and Giuseppe Fonte
MILAN -Italy’s Eni said it would receive only 65% of the gas supply volumes it had requested from Russia’s Gazprom on Thursday, prompting a minister to say the shortfall could be an attempt to exert “political pressure”.
Russian gas supply to Europe overall via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline fell further on Thursday and Moscow said more delays in repairs could lead to suspending all flows, putting a brake on Europe’s race to refill its gas inventories.
The shortfall coincided with a visit by Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi to Ukraine with French and German counterparts on Thursday.
Italy’s Ecological Transition Minister Roberto Cingolani said that reasons behind Russian gas cut could include the intention by Moscow to exert “political pressure or a manifestation of retaliation”.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said reductions in supply were not premeditated and related to maintenance issues.
“Gazprom explained that the under-delivery is due to problems at the Portovaya plant … which feeds the Nord Stream gas pipeline, through which Gazprom transports part of the volumes destined for Eni,” an Eni spokesperson said.
Minister Cingolani added the situation in Italy was not worrying so far and said Rome was ready to trigger unspecified countermeasures at the beginning of next week if needed.
“The gas situation is under control, we are monitoring flows day and night, damages are so far limited,” Cingolani said.
Italy aims to have the country’s gas storage system filled to at least 90% of capacity in time for next winter. Storage stands at 54% of capacity as of Thursday.
Italy last year sourced 40% of its gas imports from Russia.
However, Rome’s campaign to reduce its reliance on Moscow is already bearing fruit with Russian gas imports down to less than 24% of the total in the first five months of this year, according to Italy’s National Agency for Energy and Sustainable Economic Development (ENEA).
With Russia’s gas supplies falling, Algeria has become Italy’s biggest gas supplier, accounting for 31% of total imports, ENEA said.
Eni’s daily gas request from Gazprom on Thursday was approximately 44% higher than on Wednesday, the spokesperson said, adding that was due to the need to recover volumes not received the previous day and “normal commercial dynamics”.
Eni will therefore receive approximately 32 million cubic metres on Thursday, slightly higher than on Wednesday but only 65% of what it asked for.