German natural gas import costs nearly trebled in the first nine months of 2022 from a year earlier, even though imports fell 27%, official monthly data showed.

The September statistics from Germany's foreign trade office BAFA are the seventh monthly ones to reflect the impact of Russia's invasion of Ukraine and Western sanctions against what the Kremlin calls its "special military operation".

Europe's biggest economy was more reliant on Russian gas than many neighbours, mostly supplied via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline that Russia halted, blaming Western sanctions while Europe says Russia is weaponising energy.

More pipeline gas from Norway, the Netherlands, Britain and Denmark as well as provisions of liquefied natural gas (LNG) arriving on board ships have begun to plug gaps increasingly effectively.

Energy traders monitor the imports because supply and demand affect wholesale market prices, while the effects of supply shortages are worrying industry, contribute to inflation and enforce recessionary trends.

Gas data also correlates with coal, as both compete in the production of electricity, while also giving clues about demand for mandatory European Union carbon emissions permits.

BAFA's statistics, which are published with a two-month delay, showed January-September imports at 2,790,884 terajoules (TJ), or 79.4 billion cubic metres (bcm), compared with 3,824,499 TJ a year earlier.

As the supply disruptions propelled gas prices to record highs, Germany's import bill increased to 57.9 billion euros ($60.30 billion) in the nine-month period, compared with 19.9 billion euros in the same period of 2021, the data showed.

The average price paid at the border as recorded by BAFA during January to September was up 298% year-on-year at 20,761.14 euros/TJ.

The average import price of 35,626.84 euros/TJ recorded for Sept. alone, equivalent to 12.83 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh), was 13.6% down from the peak seen in the crisis so far in August.

But the level was still more than four times (361%) the price of Sept. 2021 when imports cost 7,726.88 euros/TJ. ($1 = 0.9602 euros) (Reporting by Vera Eckert, editing by Philippa Fletcher)