At least 80%: The EU Obliges its Members to Stock up on Gas

Business » ENERGY | May 20, 2022, Friday // 15:11
Bulgaria: At least 80%: The EU Obliges its Members to Stock up on Gas @Pixabay

The European institutions have agreed to oblige EU countries to maintain gas reserves to ensure their energy security due to uncertainties over Russia's fossil fuel supplies to Europe.

The European Parliament and member states have agreed to adopt a European regulation, which will oblige national authorities to fill their underground gas storage facilities by at least 80% by the end of October and to maintain stocks of at least 90% for the next two years.

The Union will try to collectively fill 85% of underground gas storage capacity in 2022. The filing obligation will be limited to 35% of Member States' annual gas consumption over the last five years, in order to avoid a disproportionate impact on certain Member States with significant storage capacity, the French EU presidency said after talks ended late Thursday night.

Countries that do not receive enough natural gas or do not have the means to buy from it can also process liquefied natural gas to reach the minimum quantities they need to stockpile.

As not all countries have gas storage facilities, those that do not have their own will be able to keep their stocks in other countries by sharing the financial costs of filling them. Countries without storage will maintain stocks corresponding to 15% of their annual gas consumption over the past five years. Governments have been allowed to pool for common gas purchases to meet their obligation to maintain minimum reserves.

The co-legislators have decided on a "filling trajectory" system that will allow continuous monitoring throughout the filling season. In 2022, the trajectories will be defined in the regulation with a flexibility margin of 5%. From 2023 onwards, the trajectories will be proposed by the Member States and established by implementing acts adopted by the Commission.

The only countries exempted from stockpiling are Ireland, Cyprus and Malta, which are not connected to the European gas transmission system and are only responsible for meeting their needs.

Certification of gas storage facilities

The Council and the European Parliament also agreed on mandatory certification of all storage system operators, "in order to avoid potential risks of external influences on critical storage infrastructures that could jeopardize security of energy supply and other important security interests". Certification will give priority to larger storage facilities and storage facilities that have recently been filled to consistently low levels. Member States will have 150 days after the entry into force of the regulation to certify priority facilities and 18 months to certify others. Non-certified operators will be required to relinquish ownership or control of storage facilities. The measure will also affect foreign owners of gas storage facilities in Europe, such as Russia.

The co-legislators agreed that the completion obligations will expire on 31 December 2025, while the certification obligations will continue after that date.

Bulgaria has one gas storage facility - in Chiren, which has a capacity of 500 million cubic meters of gas. At the end of the heating season, it was below 20%, but the government said it was starting to fill up.

The Council and Parliament must now formally accept the interim political agreement reached by their negotiating teams. This is largely considered a formal step and can be expected before the end of the political season in Brussels.

In early March, the European Commission proposed mandatory filling of 90% of gas storage capacity before next winter but subsequently reduced the ceiling to 80% due to high natural gas prices, which will make it difficult for some countries to meet the requirement.

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