Vienna threatens Gazprom with legal action

HThe largest natural gas storage facilities in the European Union are located on or under Austrian territory. The facility at Haidach near Salzburg is a legal curiosity and a political problem because it is an essential part of the Southern German Strategic Reserve but is inaccessible to the German authorities. German specifications for packing do not apply to Haidach. The memory is almost empty.

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

Meanwhile, Astora was placed under state supervision in Germany. According to Vienna’s Department of Energy, it has filled the portion it manages with 27 percent, but the (largest) portion of GSA is practically empty. This is the background to Austrian Chancellor Karl Nahammer’s request that Gazprom immediately fill the storage facility. “Otherwise we will consider the procedures that must be filled,” the ÖVP politician threatened in an interview with Grazer newspaper “Kleine Zeitung” published on Friday.

He does not think about nationalization, but rather the obligation to use the system, otherwise “other companies can access it”. Nehamer used the English phrase “use it or lose it”. Nehamer did not give a specific timetable, but assured Gazprom that “it is already feeling the pressure”.

The Green Alliance partner indicated support. “We have one of the largest storage facilities, but it is still empty for reasons of political blackmail,” said Green Party leader and Vice-Chancellor Werner Kugler. “Either existing storage operators or rights holders will fill it in, or we will find other ways.” Kogler announced that “normative means” would be created for this purpose, i.e. a law. “This is about rights, so you don’t have to nationalize the infrastructure structure yet.”

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

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

Photo: dpa

Nahamer said Heydach is of strategic importance to Germany, as well as to Western countries in Austria. Haidach has a capacity of 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 can be returned from Haidach to Austria via pipelines, according to the ministry.

On demand, it was argued that Austria’s gas storage tanks should be 80 percent full by the next heating season. “However, we have to make sure that warehousing takes place in all warehouses. If Gazprom does not want to fill the storage facility it operates in Heidach, we will take further measures to ensure that warehousing takes place here as well.” The priority is “the security of supply to our country”.

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