Czech Republic bracing for potential disruption of gas supplies from Russia

Illustrative photo: European Commission

The Czech Republic is bracing for a possible disruption in gas imports from Russia, as Moscow stands firm on its demand for payments in roubles. According to the Minister of Industry and Trade, Josef Síkela, Czech government is preparing for all scenarios, including the possibility of a total shutdown.

The Czech Republic, just like the rest of Europe, relies heavily on gas imports from Russia and only produces two per cent of its gas consumption domestically.

In the event of an emergency, Mr Síkela says the priority would be to ensure the operation of basic infrastructure and heat supply to households, which would be the last in line to be affected by measures seeking to reduce gas consumption.

According to Mr Síkela, the country has approximately one month’s worth of gas reserves and more than 90 days of oil and petroleum products. He went out of his way to reassure the public that at the moment, all energy supplies are stable and there is no reason for immediate concern.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday signed a decree stating that Russia would supply gas to the Czech Republic and other “unfriendly states” only against payments in roubles and that the countries would have to open rouble accounts in state-run Gazprombank or risk being cut off.

Jozef Síkela | Photo: Office of Czech Government

While the Kremlin later said that this would not affect shipments which were already paid for, the governments of EU states, including the Czech Republic, are bracing for a possible disruption of gas imports.

Speaking on Czech Television on Sunday, the Czech Industry and Trade Minister said joint gas purchases were being intensively discussed at EU level:

“In case the flow of gas from Russia is suspended, we are probably the closest to getting Norwegian gas to the Czech Republic via the NETRA pipeline, which, according to our calculations, would optimally be able to cover roughly between a quarter and a third of the Czech Republic’s needs in the winter heating season.”

Gas from the North Sea via the North German NETRA pipeline and a connecting link has been flowing into the Czech Republic since May 1997.

According to Deputy Prime Minister Vít Rakušan, the Czech gas pipeline company Net4Gas is also working on connecting the country to the Austrian gas system, which should be ready by 2028.

Meanwhile, the minister of industry and trade and the minister of finance are planning a joint trip to Qatar in May. The main aim of the mission is to discuss gas supplies that could partially replace imports from Russia.