Taken by the throat by its dependence on Russian gas, Germany has discovered another Achilles’ heel: the weight of Russian capital in its oil refineries, pipelines and other gas reservoirs.
Subsidiaries of the giants Gazprom and Rosneft are key players in the country’s energy infrastructure.
German political and economic leaders find themselves “before the ruins” of cooperation with Russia long perceived as the guarantor of a detente with the regime of Vladimir Putin, observes the magazine Spiegel.
“They must face the facts, continues the weekly: they did not appeal to agents of change within Russia, but perhaps to Trojan horses from the Kremlin”.
At the beginning of April, the German government took an unprecedented decision: to temporarily take control of the German subsidiary of Gazprom, a radical measure justified by an opaque transfer of ownership of the company.
The Minister of the Economy invoked issues of “public order and national security”.
And for good reason: owned by Gazprom, the Rehden reservoir (north-west), in Lower Saxony, alone represents around 20% of Germany’s total gas storage capacity.
With a capacity of 4 billion cubic meters of gas, it is presented as the largest in Europe. Belonging until 2015 to the German group BASF, it had been sold to the company Astora, a subsidiary of Gazprom
The Russian group is suspected of having deliberately kept its storage low during the summer preceding the invasion of Ukraine. Rehden’s reservoir is only 0.5% full.
Astora has further storage facilities in Jemgum, on the border with the Netherlands, and in Haidach, Austria.
Gazprom Germania also held a stake in a large storage facility in a salt cavern, not far from Hamburg.
– Distribution networks
Gascade, one of the largest gas distribution network operators in Germany, is also 50.03% owned by Gazprom-Germania.
The company describes its network of 3,200 kilometers of gas pipelines as “the hub of European natural gas transport”. Its pipes called Eugal, Midal, Stegal or Weda transport the raw material to the German metropolises.
On its website, the company claims to act independently: “Gascade’s transport activity is not subject to the influence of the Gazprom group or that of any other shareholder.”
Other important links such as the Northern European NEL gas pipeline and the Opal gas pipeline in the Baltic Sea are owned by the company Wiga transports, in which Gazprom Germania holds a 49.98% stake.
The rest of Gascade and Wiga Transport are owned by German group Wintershall Dea – which is third-party owned by Russian oligarch Mikhail Fridman, now under Western sanctions.
With a market share of around 20%, Wingas, a 100% subsidiary of Gazprom-Germania, plays a leading role in the distribution of gas, in particular to German municipal utilities, industrial companies and power stations.
The supervision of the German State over the subsidiaries of Gazprom is planned until September 30. During this period, the government will have to choose between nationalization and sale to a new owner.
The Rosneft Germany subsidiary of the Russian oil giant claims to supply a quarter of all German crude oil imports.
The company is the majority owner of the PCK refinery in Schwedt, east of Berlin. This site can process around 11.6 million tonnes of crude oil per year, which corresponds to around 11% of Germany’s total oil consumption.
Rosneft wants to buy the 37.5% stake held by the Anglo-Dutch group Shell in the refinery, increasing its share to 92%.
The Federal Cartel Office had approved this transaction a few days before the outbreak of the war. The Ministry of Economy is currently examining whether the purchase can still be stopped.
Rosneft Germany also owns 24% and almost 29% of the shares of the major refineries Miro and Bayernoil in southern Germany.
Like Gazprom in the gas sector, Rosneft is also one of the largest oil distributors and logisticians. According to the daily Handelsblatt, the group companies supply 4,000 major customers in Germany.