France is dry. Almost Slovakia. In Germany, supplies are down 60 percent. in Italia Yesterday Eni received half Gas wanted. Income “only” 34 million cubic meters from Tarvisio. Vladimir Putin is turning off the gas taps in Europe gradually but relentlessly. Governments are on alert. The Ministry of Environmental Transformation held a review schedule for the middle of next week. We are moving towards the transition from a state of advance warning to a state of alert: in practice, a state of emergency is declared. A seemingly formal clause, which, however, would allow the implementation of various actions. Such as voluntary cutting of gas by companies. If the crisis is exacerbated by a Russian supply disruption – which now seems likely – the full capacity of the coal plants that are still operating will be activated, in order to supply the 5 billion cubic meters of gas used today to produce electric power. But targeted outages can also occur in companies that have “uninterruptible” contracts, that is, that have accepted interruptions in methane supplies for lower prices. Indeed, Minister Roberto Cingolani can act regardless of the declaration of a state of emergency, because he has already been authorized by the first decree on Ukraine to take the necessary countermeasures.
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Putin’s strategy is clear to the government. It is, as Prime Minister Mario Draghi said, a “political” move. But also for a smart trading strategy. If he cuts supplies tomorrow, Putin won’t jeopardize the European or Italian energy system anyway. Yesterday, 196 million cubic meters of gas arrived in Italy, against 155 million requests. This means that even without 34 million Russian gas, Italy would have been able to cover its needs. Thanks to supplies from Algeria and Azerbaijan. 64 million cubic meters arrived yesterday from Mazara del Vallo, where the Transmed gas pipeline transporting Algerian methane arrives. From Melendugno, in Salento where TAP arrives, 28 million arrived. The latest SNAM data indicates a decrease in Moscow’s supply from 39% to 23% in 2022. However, it is better not to indulge in easy delusions. The reason is simple. Most of the Russian gas is burned in Italy in the last three months of the year. From October to December it is almost impossible to do without it. This is why the European Union has set a target of 80% of storage facilities being filled. In this way, in the winter, in the absence of Russian gas, European countries can count on reserves. It is precisely this plan that Putin aims to boycott. Cutting gas from Europe today achieves two results. The first is that countries are not allowed to replenish reserves: Italy is stuck at 54% and yesterday only 26 million cubic meters were stored in factories. In May, up to 100 million were pumped per day.
Putin’s second achievement is to keep the price high. On the Amsterdam stock exchange yesterday, it fluctuated between 124 and 138 euros per megawatt-hour: it closed at 117 euros, but only for fear of not fueling the recession hypothesis. In one week the value of methane increased by 43%. At these prices, operators do not want to hoard gas. Whatever they buy, they sell right away. But Putin’s real victory is that if Italy and Europe fail to fill their stocks, they will be able to knock on Moscow’s doors next winter so as not to risk leaving them out in the cold. At that point, Putin will be able to reap the price he wants for gas, as well as possess an exceptional weapon of blackmail against the Old Continent.
What will Italy do in the event of a supply interruption, in addition to activating coal plants and starting the first rationing? It is possible, Cingolani predicted, that he will also accelerate in exercises to revitalize wells in the Adriatic. On Tuesday, the minister will respond to a question from Senator Andrea de Bertoldi of the Italian Brotherhood, who two months ago managed to get an approved agenda that obligated the government to lift the ban on national production. A move that now appears to be urgent.