John Kemp is a Reuters market analyst. The views expressed are his own.

LONDON: Germany’s gas inventories have depleted rapidly since the start of December, prompting concerns the country is not reducing consumption enough to ensure stocks will last if the rest of the winter is colder-than-normal.

Gas supply is stable, the Federal Network Agency said in its latest report, but the situation is tense and a further worsening cannot be ruled out (“Current status of gas in Germany”, Bundesnetzagentur, December 14).

The agency stressed the need to save gas and said consumption is still too high to meet the government’s target of reducing it by 20% to avert a national gas emergency.

Germany’s inventories have fallen by almost 17 terawatt-hours (TWh) or roughly 7% since the start of the month, according to data reported to Gas Infrastructure Europe (GIE).

But the rapid depletion is not surprising given exceptionally cold temperatures and slow wind speeds which reduced wind farm output.

Frankfurt experienced 114 heating degree days in the week ending on December 14 compared with a seasonal average of just 80 between 2014 and 2021.

Average windspeed was just 8.6 kilometres per hour compared with an average of 13.7 km/h between 2014 and 2021.

Chartbook: Germany gas inventories

The combination of intense cold and therefore high heating demand with slow windspeeds and low windfarm generation was unusual.

Since 2014, there have only been ten other seven-day periods when temperatures were colder and winds were slower than in the week to December 14.

The rapid drawdown in gas inventories for space heating, industrial processes and power generation shows the system functioning as intended.

The purpose of storage is to cope with seasonal swings in consumption as well as short-term variability caused by weather conditions.

Such conditions are unlikely to be repeated often in the remainder of the winter so they have only a modest impact on the outlook for stocks.

Even after the rapid depletion in the first half of month, inventories were equivalent to 225 TWh on Dec. 13, the second-highest level on record for the time of year.

With the winter heating season already roughly 30% completed, inventories stood at the same level on Dec. 13 as they did on Oct. 1, the traditional start of the heating season.

Gas stocks were +56 TWh (+21% or 1.39 standard deviations) above the ten-year seasonal average for 2012-2021.

In the last decade, inventories have depleted by an average of -87 TWh between Dec. 13 and the post-winter low in the following March or April.

The largest seasonal depletion was -148 TWh (winter 2018/19) while the smallest was just -34 TWh (winter 2014/15).

Given inventories stand at 225 TWh, there should be enough to last the winter.

Related columns:

- Europe’s gas stocks comfortable despite cold snap (Reuters, December 14)

- Europe on course to end winter with plenty of gas (Reuters, November 28)

- Europe’s gas storage peaks after record refill season (Reuters, November 18)

- Mission accomplished? Europe fills gas storage ahead of schedule (Reuters, October 4)

John Kemp is a Reuters market analyst. The views expressed are his own (Editing by Barbara Lewis)