More gas has been withdrawn from European underground storages in the 2020-2021 winter than in any other winter: underground gas storage facilities continue to play an even bigger role in the energy security of Europe.
In Europe, 720 TWh of gas1 was removed from underground gas storage facilities during the 2020-2021 gas winter period2. This net volume is the largest that has ever been withdrawn for the same period since the launch of storage data publication on Gas Infrastructure Europe’s AGSI+ platform. Such a performance eclipses the previous record of 714 TWh set in the 2017-2018 winter marked by a long and intense spell of cold weather dubbed ‘the Beast from the East’3.
Dr Axel Wietfeld, GSE President and CEO of Uniper Hydrogen, explains: “Storage System Operators are perfectly equipped and prepared to withstand extreme weather conditions as we faced in recent months. In Europe, we are blessed with having access to massive underground storage resources – being salt caverns, depleted fields and aquifers. Looking at the situations in Northeast Asia in January and then in Texas in February 2021, these higher net withdrawals reveal how strategic our facilities have been for the reliability of the energy system of our continent”.
Besides ensuring a high degree of resilience and energy security, European storages also bring flexibility to the whole energy system. In a context of global LNG supply glut, they can play a balancing role in absorbing some of the gas surplus. This situation became particularly visible during 2018-2019 winter when Europe started importing LNG at levels not experienced in a decade despite normal gas demand conditions. As a result, historically high storage stocks were held at the start of 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 winters.
Camille Bonenfant-Jeanneney, CEO of Storengy, comments: “It was impressive to see how our storage facilities have enabled a flexible and adaptive supply mix, as experienced globally over the past two years”.
However, an increase in gas demand in Europe and a significant rise in prices in Asia led to record storage net withdrawals in January-February 2021, helping European reserves to regain their historical level averages: on 31st March 2021, underground gas storages were around 30% full, compared to 54% full on the same day the year before.
Torben Brabo, GIE President and CEO of Energinet Gas TSO, concludes: “It is clear that gas infrastructure operators – LNG terminals, transmission pipelines and storages – are united in their efforts to replenish European gas reserves and I would like to applaud them for their commitment in ensuring European citizens the most secure, reliable and affordable gases, be they renewable or low-carbon and even natural gas in the transitional phase. In a future energy system relying significantly on intermittent renewables, the value of gas storages will progressively become more and more important. Already today, our storage sites can accommodate biomethane, synthetic methane and hydrogen, without extensive network investment for the benefit of society. This is exactly the type of energy transition Europe needs to deliver the EU Green Deal at the lowest cost. We are ready for it”.
1 All data in this press release were extracted from Gas Infrastructure Europe’s AGSI+ Transparency Platform, available at: https://agsi.gie.eu
2 Stretching from 1st October 2020 to 31st March 2021.
3 Please see the press release by Gas Infrastructure Europe Return of cold weather triggers large use of gas infrastructure in Europe, 20 March 2018. Available at: https://gie.eu/press/return-of-cold-weather-triggers-large-use-of-gas-infrastructure-in-europe/