As of Aug. 18, the benchmark for European natural gas futures settled at 241 euros ($241.89) per megawatt-hour. This is higher than the previous record for natural gas futures in early March, when Russia's invasion of Ukraine sent shock waves across markets.
Natural gas prices are also about 11 times higher than where they usually are in Europe for this time of the year, This has caused living and operating costs to spiral out of control for households and businesses as the continent faces its worst inflation in decades.
The situation is expected to get worse as the winter natural gas supply crunch approaches. Europe will soon have to compete heavily with Asia for available supplies of liquefied natural gas, especially those coming from the United States.
"An increase in demand from Asia as buyers prepare for winter could raise the number of U.S. cargoes bound for the region in the coming months," to the detriment of Europe, noted Lujia Cao, an analyst for Bloomberg.
These prices for natural gas futures were recorded just hours before Gazprom announced that the Nord Stream 1 pipeline would once again shut down temporarily.
On Friday, Aug. 19, Gazprom made the announcement that the major pipeline will halt the transportation of natural gas supplies to Europe for three days at the end of the month. (Related: Russia reduces amount of gas flowing to Europe through Nord Stream 1 pipeline by 80%.)
Gazprom claimed the shutdown was because the pipeline's only remaining compressor requires maintenance. This unscheduled repair is expected to bring further disruption to Europe's natural gas supplies, especially for Germany, which heavily relies on natural gas deliveries from Moscow to power its many industries.
"We are monitoring the situation closely with the Federal Network Agency," said a spokesperson for Germany's Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs.
"It is necessary to carry out maintenance every 1,000 hours of operation," said Gazprom in a statement.
The shutdown is scheduled for Aug. 31 to Sept. 2. It follows a 10-day maintenance back in July and has raised fears over whether Russia would resume gas deliveries following the shutdown or throttle Europe's gas supplies once again.
After maintenance is complete, and "in the absence of technical malfunctions," Gazprom said gas flows of 33 million cubic meters (mcm) a day would resume. This is in line with current volumes, but is just 20 percent of Nord Stream's full capacity of 167 mcm daily.
The European Union has accused Russia of using the continent's dependence on Russian natural gas exports as a weapon. Moscow has denied the claim and has instead blamed global economic sanctions against Russia for the drop in exports.
The nations in the EU are working hard to fill up their storage facilities to prepare for winter. As of Aug. 17, about 76 percent of storage facilities are filled.
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Watch this clip from RT speculating whether Europe will experience a complete winter blackout due to its energy dispute with Russia.
This video is from the High Hopes channel on Brighteon.com.