The explosion at a key natural gas hub in Austria has disrupted winter supplies across the EU’s energy markets, raising questions about the bloc’s storage capacity.
At least 21 people were injured and one worker died at the installation in Baumgarten, according to the operator, Austria Gas Connect, which is 51-per-cent owned by OMV.
“With the restart of operation on the international pipeline systems, it will be possible to resume transit through Austria, thereby restoring security of supply for the affected countries,” Gas Connect Austria said in a statement.
Baumgarten, about 50km northeast of Vienna, is a key link for Russian and Norwegian natural gas imports, accounting for about 10 per cent of the continent’s supply.
In 2014, OMV agreed with Gazprom to boost Baumgarten’s importance to the energy markets.
Italy’s industry minister warned that the country was facing a “serious” energy supply problem as a result of the explosion.
European consumers and motorists have been warned to expect sharp rises in gas and petrol prices after a convergence of supply problems as the winter freeze begins.
Reuters reported that the Italian wholesale day-ahead supply of natural gas price rose 150 per cent to €60 per megawatt-hour: an all-time high.
Meanwhile, Norway’s energy major Statoil said that it had reduced output from its platform at Troll, Europe’s biggest offshore gas field, because of a power cut.
The shutdown of the Forties pipeline in Aberdeenshire, the North Sea’s most important oil and gas pipeline system, on Monday compounded the impact of the Austrian explosion.
The explosion disrupted gas supplies to Croatia, Italy and Slovenia, not pipes heading west, according to Austria Gas Connect.
Resident Walter Hansie, 88, told Bloomberg: “There was a fireball rising in the air when I got out. Nothing like that ever happened here before.”
Italy declared a gas emergency after the explosion threatened to limit its service, letting the authorities carry out extraordinary measures to try to meet energy demands, such as allowing coal and oil power plants to fire at full blast.
But Italian pipeline operator Snam said supplies were guaranteed by its storage capacity.
“Italy should be able to cope with their storage facilities,” Bernhard Painz from the Austrian gas regulator said. “The state of emergency is more of a formal procedure. We can’t say yet when full flows will resume.”
Baumgarten after the blast. Picture credit: YouTube