Europe braces itself over Ukrainian gas theft

History has repeated itself. As Ukraine starts to siphon off gas from Europe, Europe is getting prepared.

In a similar dispute in 2006 Ukraine siphoned off supplies, leading to a shortfall in Europe. This time – just a day after Russia stopped deliveries to Ukraine – some countries say they are not getting enough fuel. Romania, Poland and Hungary have all seen drops in gas supplies, with Romania's Transgaz experiencing a 30% slump.

According to the EU statistics agency Eurostat, 42% of the EU’s natural gas imports come from Russia, and 80% of those supplies come to Europe via pipelines running through Ukraine. Therefore, the events unfolding in Ukraine are of serious concern to Europe. However, many have prepared for possible disruptions.

“E.ON Ruhrgas is prepared. We receive gas from different countries. We have 12 underground storage facilities. We have a broad supply, and we have flexible supply tariffs with other companies. And we can use it if it’s needed,” said Helmut Roloff with E.ON Ruhrgas AG National Press Relations, Environment and Technology.

Germany’s neighbour Austria says it's also prepared with its four month supply. Austria was the first country in Western Europe to start buying Russian gas.

“Of course we expect that Ukraine should not take those quantities that are allocated for Europe, and we would expect Ukraine to allow undisrupted transit to Europe,” said Wolfgang Ruttenstorfer, Chief Executive of OMV, an Austrian oil refinery.

A third of all Russian natural gas exports to Western Europe pass through the Baumgarten station in Austria. At present, around 50 billion cubic metres of natural gas is distributed from here to European customers.

“Our experience is that Gazprom has supplied Austria and Europe for the last 20 years in a very reliable way,” said Ruttenstorfer.

The European Union has tried to distance itself from the dispute, but now it has no choice. It will have to pressure Ukraine, as the row over the drop in temperature, heats up.