Vienna threatens Gazprom with legal measures

Ene of the largest natural gas storage facilities in the EU is located on or under Austrian soil. The facility at Haidach near Salzburg is a legal curiosity and a political problem because it is essentially part of the strategic reserve for southern Germany but is inaccessible to the German authorities. German specifications for filling do not apply to Haidach. And the memory is almost empty.

For some time now, Germany has been putting pressure on the Austrian government to do something about it. But the Republic of Austria only owns the physical memory. The companies that market the storage capacities are Astora (about a third) and GSA – two companies that are mostly subsidiaries of the Russian state-owned company Gazprom.

In the meantime, the Astora has been placed under state supervision in Germany. According to the Ministry of Energy in Vienna, it has filled the portion it manages to 27 percent, but the (larger) part of the GSA is practically empty. That is the background to Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer’s demand that Gazprom fill up the storage facility immediately. “Otherwise we will consider measures so that it has to be filled,” threatened the ÖVP politician in an interview with the Grazer “Kleine Zeitung”, which was published on Friday.

He doesn’t think of nationalization, but of an obligation to use the system, otherwise “other companies can access it”. Nehammer used the English catchphrase “use it or lose it”. Nehammer did not give a specific timeline, but assured Gazprom “already feeling the pressure”.

The green coalition partner signaled support. “We have one of the largest storage facilities, but it remains empty for reasons of political blackmail,” said Green Party leader and Vice Chancellor Werner Kogler. “Either the current storage operators or rights holders will fill it, or we will find other ways.” Kogler announced that “normative means” would be created for this, i.e. a law. “That relates to rights, so you don’t have to nationalize the infrastructure structure yet.”

Demands from Gazprom that the company fill up the Haidach gas storage facility: Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer (ÖVP) on April 27 in Vienna

Demands from Gazprom that the company fill up the Haidach gas storage facility: Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer (ÖVP) on April 27 in Vienna

Image: dpa

Nehammer said Haidach is strategically important for Germany, but also for western states in Austria. Haidach has a capacity of up to 2.9 billion cubic meters of natural gas, making it the second largest storage facility in Central Europe. It is connected to the German gas network, but also stores gas for the federal states of Tyrol and Vorarlberg. In addition, gas from Haidach can be brought back to Austria via pipelines, according to the ministry.

On request, it was said that Austria’s gas storage tanks would have to be 80 percent filled by the coming heating season. “However, we have to make sure that the storage happens in all storages. If Gazprom does not want to fill the storage facility it operates in Haidach, we will take further measures to ensure that storage takes place here as well.” The priority is “the security of supply for our country.”

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