Netherlands could nationalize gas storage facility co-managed by Gazprom
The Dutch government may have to nationalize the gas storage facility in Bergen to make sure that the Netherlands does not run out of energy in the coming winter. Sufficient gas must be stored this summer to stock up for the winter. But Russian company Gazprom, which manages 40 percent of the Bergen storage facility, refuses to fill the reservoir, De Volkskrant reports based on information from insiders.
The Bergermeer reservoir plays a vital role in the Dutch energy supply. It can store over 4 billion cubic meters of high-calorific natural gas - about a tenth of the annual consumption in the Netherlands. Abu Dhabi state-owned company Taqa owns 60 percent of the facility. The Dutch government owns 40 percent through the state-owned company Energiebeheer Nederland (EBN). As it is a commercially operated facility, the Dutch government has little influence on how it is run.
Gazprom manages 40 percent of the Bergermeer reservoir until 2045. Last summer, the Russian company suddenly failed to fill that space, which means the Bergermeer facility it is running low on gas. If Gazprom doesn't fill it in the coming months, the Netherlands will face a gas shortage next winter, according to the newspaper.
"We can now guess the reason," State Secretary Hans Vijlbrief for Mining said to parliament about Gazprom not filling its part of the Bergemeer reservoir. The government assumes that Gazprom stored as little gas as possible in Europe in view of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Vijlbrief added that, legally, the Cabinet cannot simply take away Gazprom's filling rights.
Lawyers and other involved parties told the Volkskrant that there is a "use-it-or-lose-it" clause in the contract with Gazprom. Taqa can decide to offer the unused space to other parties. But that rarely happens because other parties can only use the vacant space until the owner - Gazprom in this case - reclaims it. That means that the gas may have to be removed and sold at an inopportune moment - a considerable risk for many commercial parties.
The Dutch government also does not have time for all the negotiations that would involve. The Bergermeer facility is currently less than 10 percent filled. And it will take about 150 days to fill it, which means that they'll have to start filling soon to make it in time for winter.
An insider told the newspaper that buying out Taqa is the only logical decision that Minister Rob Jetten of Climate and Energy Policy can make. If EBN becomes the 100 percent shareholder of Bergermeer, it can use the use-it-or-lose clause on its own and fill Gazprom's space with gas the Netherlands buys itself. Taqa would likely be interested in a takeover - there have been reports that Taqa has been trying to get rid of foreign gas assets since 2016.