By Irina Slav of OilPrice.com
Germany will stop importing Russian coal from August 1 and crude oil from December 31, the country's deputy finance minister, Joerg Kukies said today, as quoted by Reuters.
"We will be off Russian coal in a few weeks," Kukies said at the Sydney Energy Forum, which is taking place this week.
"Anyone who knows the history of the Druzhba pipeline, which was already a tool of the Soviet empire over eastern Europe, ridding yourself of that dependence is not a trivial matter, but it is one that we will achieve in a few months," he added.
Kukies admitted, however, that replacing Russian hydrocarbons, not only in Germany, will be no easy task, citing the fact that together, the United States and Qatar could only supply some 30 billion cu m of natural gas equivalent to Europe, which imports more than 150 billion cu m of Russian gas annually.
Despite the challenge, Germany is in a rush to build LNG import terminals so it can replace at least part of Russian gas imports with liquefied gas from abroad. The problem here is, however, tightening supplies, with Freeport LNG in the U.S. offline until at least September, and Shell's Prelude in Australia shut down amid industrial action.
Demand for gas in Germany and Europe as a whole remains strong as governments seek to fill up their gas storage caverns ahead of the next heating season. Germany, specifically, is also on edge after Gazprom stopped the flow of gas via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline this week for regularly scheduled maintenance. Fears are that it will not turn the taps back on once the maintenance is done.
The suspension of coal and oil purchases from Russia is a result of sanctions the EU placed on Moscow earlier this year, providing buyers of the commodities with a temporal cushion of six months for each, so they could stock up on coal and oil before the respective embargos kicked in.