Natural gas prices hit new records in Europe, adding yet more worries for consumers ahead of the winter heating season and putting new scrutiny on the continent’s biggest supplier, Russia.
Gas prices have been climbing higher for weeks now, with a growing chorus of domestic and industrial consumers across Europe warning of sharply higher bills that could stretch through the winter.
The November gas price for a key European benchmark hit an all-time high of 97.73 euros per megawatt hour on October 1. That’s about 400 percent higher for the year.
Analysts point to a combination of factors for the unusually high prices, including some gas shipments being diverted to Asian markets, technical repairs that have crimped shipments from Norway, and colder-than-normal temperatures at the end of last winter that drained storage tanks.
But some experts have also pointed to Russia’s state gas giant Gazprom, which is the main supplier of gas to Europe.
Russian gas supplies via the main Yamal-Europe pipeline fell by almost 77 percent on October 1, from a day earlier, according to data from grid operator Gascade, which said the cause was Gazprom booking only one-third of its available capacity for October.
Last month, a group of European Parliament lawmakers asked the European Commission to investigate Gazprom.
The Kremlin has said that Gazprom was meeting all its contract obligations in full.
Gazprom has nearly completed a second undersea pipeline called Nord Stream 2 that will increase the amount of Russian gas that can shipped directly to Germany. German regulators are reviewing the final paperwork before giving it the green light to start operation.
The pipeline bypasses Russia’s traditional shipment route, via Ukraine. Kyiv has complained about that, while also warning that Russia might resort to using its gas supplies as a political tool, something that has happened in the past.