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An employee surveys a turbine of the Nord Stream 1 pipeline at the Siemens Energy plant in Muelheim an der Ruhr, western Germany, on Aug. 3.SASCHA SCHUERMANN/AFP/Getty Images

German officials say Russia‘s three-day maintenance shutdown of the crucial Nord Stream gas pipeline to Germany is not necessary, and fear the temporary supply freeze could continue.

The closing of the Nord Stream 1 Baltic Sea pipeline, which began at 3 a.m. on Wednesday and will continue until Saturday morning, makes no technical sense, said Klaus Mueller, the president of the Federal Network Agency, which supervises the gas market in Germany.

“The renewed need for maintenance claimed by the Russian side is technically incomprehensible,” he said, adding that the work is not part of the regular maintenance cycle.

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The missing volumes of gas will not be replaced by shifting flows from other sources, Mr. Mueller said, adding that Germany is now better prepared for outages, as its gas storage facilities are 83 per cent filled. “The delivery stop on Nord Stream 1 announced for three days is therefore bearable,“ he said.

But any possible extension would be a real threat, Mr. Mueller told The Globe and Mail. “In view of Russia‘s actions in recent weeks, it is conceivable that deliveries will not be resumed after the delivery stop,” he warned.

Gas deliveries through Nord Stream 1, which is the key pipeline between Russia and Germany, were suspended for several days in July. At that time, it was due to annual maintenance work, which Nord Stream AG, as the operating company, had previously announced.

Russian state-owned energy giant Gazprom said in a statement that the three-day shutdown is needed because the only functioning turbine at the Portovaya compressor station in Russia has to be checked and overhauled.

The Nord Stream 1 compressor station consists of two tubes, each with three large turbines. A total of five of the turbines must be running for the pipeline to reach 100-per-cent capacity. One of the turbines that is usually in place at the station recently had maintenance work done at a Siemens Energy facility in Montreal.

Gazprom has cited faulty or delayed equipment and missing turbines as the main reasons for reducing deliveries via Nord Stream.

Before the entire shutdown on Wednesday, only one turbine was running in the compressor station, which had reduced the flow of natural gas to Germany to 20 per cent of normal levels. Russia blamed this on the fact that Nord Stream still does not have the turbine that Canada has returned from Montreal.

Gazprom chief executive officer Alexei Miller on Wednesday said Western sanctions mean Siemens Energy cannot carry out regular maintenance on pipeline equipment needed to ensure the smooth transport of gas.

“Our opponents have issued so many sanction documents that they created a situation, which could be called sanctions confusion,“ Mr. Miller was quoted as saying by Interfax news agency.

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A yacht sails past a gas flare at Portovaya Bay on the coast of the Gulf of Finland in the Leningrad Region, Russia, on Aug. 26. Gazprom has said the three-day shutdown is needed because the only functioning turbine at the Portovaya compressor station has to be checked and overhauled.STRINGER/Reuters

Siemens Energy, which has done maintenance work on compressors and turbines at the station in the past, said in a statement on Wednesday it is not involved in the maintenance of the compressor station, but stood ready to advise Gazprom if needed. The company said it had no reports of any turbines that need maintenance other than the one recently shipped from Canada.

Mr. Mueller said Russia‘s comments about the turbines are a pretext to justify halting gas shipments.

Meanwhile, in Portovaya, a functioning replacement turbine is available, Siemens Energy chief executive Christian Bruch said recently. “However, Gazprom usually only uses such a spare part when the original is on its way back,“ he said.

Russia has refused to accept the turbine returned to Germany from Montreal, saying it wants further documentation showing that the equipment is not subject to Western sanctions.

Sabine Sill, a spokesperson for Siemens Energy, told The Globe in an e-mail that the turbine serviced in Canada “is currently still located at our plant in Mulheim an der Ruhr. The transport of the turbine is prepared and could start immediately.“ She said the company has had all the necessary documents for export from Germany to Russia since mid-July and had informed Gazprom of this.

“What is missing, however, are required customs documents for import to Russia. This information can only be provided by the customer. This situation remains unchanged,“ Ms. Sill said.

The serviced turbine is protected by a steel shell as transport packaging. Installation in Nord Stream 1 had been scheduled for September.

The Canadian government has granted an exemption to sanctions it placed on Gazprom over Russia’s military assault on Ukraine to allow six Nord Stream 1 turbines to undergo maintenance in Montreal.

In the past, Gazprom sent the turbines to Canada by ship and had them transported back afterward. The sanctions meant the turbine could not be sent directly to Russia.

The usual maintenance interval for normal operation of the turbines is three to five years.

“The maintenance of our turbines is and remains a routine operation,“ Ms. Sill told The Globe. “There have been no significant complications in the last 10 years. The current approval from the Canadian government also allows for additional turbines to be serviced and subsequently exported by Siemens Energy in Montreal.“

Gazprom has not yet given a new date for the next shutdown. But according to the company, the last remaining turbine at the Portovaya compressor station must be serviced every 1,000 working hours. This means the next shutdown is likely to take place in mid-October.

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