the bargains of Russian companies in Germany

Subsidiaries of giants Gazprom and Rosneft are key players in Germany’s energy infrastructure (John MACDOUGALL/AFP/Files)

Taken by the throat for its dependence on Russian gas, Germany has discovered another Achilles’ heel: the weight of Russian capital in its oil refineries, pipelines and other gas fields.

Subsidiaries of the giants Gazprom and Rosneft are key players in the country’s energy infrastructure.

German political and economic leaders find themselves “facing the ruins” of cooperation with Russia, long perceived as the guarantor of a détente with the Vladimir Putin regime, observes Spiegel magazine.

“They must face the facts, continues the weekly: they did not appeal to agents of change inside Russia, but perhaps to Trojan horses in the Kremlin.”

– Tanks

In early April, the German government made an unprecedented decision: to temporarily take control of Gazprom’s German subsidiary, a sweeping move justified by an opaque transfer of ownership of the company.

The Minister of Economy invoked issues of “public order and national security.”

Russian natural gas imports to the EU
Imports of Russian natural gas to the EU (Sylvie HUSSON / AFP / Files)

And for good reason: owned by Gazprom, the Rehden reservoir (northwest) in Lower Saxony alone accounts for around 20% of Germany’s total gas storage capacity.

With a capacity of 4,000 million cubic meters of gas, it is presented as the largest in Europe. Until 2015 belonging to the German group BASF, it had been sold to the Astora company, a subsidiary of Gazprom.

It is suspected that the Russian group deliberately kept it in storage during the summer before 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 had 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.

A gas receiving station of the operator Gascade, in September 2021 in Lubmin, northeastern Germany
A gas receiving station of the operator Gascade, in September 2021 in Lubmin, northeast Germany (John MACDOUGALL / AFP / Files)

The company describes its 3,200-kilometre network of gas pipelines as “the hub of European natural gas transportation.” 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 any other shareholder.”

Other important links such as the NEL pipeline in Northern Europe and the Opal pipeline in the Baltic Sea are owned by the company Wiga transports, in which Gazprom Germania has a 49.98% stake.

The rest of Gascade and Wiga Transport are owned by German group Wintershall Dea, which is owned by a third party 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 gas distribution, in particular to German municipal utilities, industrial companies and power plants. .

German state supervision of Gazprom subsidiaries is scheduled until September 30. During this period, the government will have to choose between nationalization and sale to a new owner.

– Refineries

The Russian oil giant’s Rosneft Germany subsidiary claims to supply a quarter of all German crude oil imports.

The PCK refinery in Schwedt, east of Berlin, April 2, 2022
The PCK refinery in Schwedt, east of Berlin, on April 2, 2022 (John MACDOUGALL / AFP/File)

The company is majority owner of the PCK refinery in Schwedt, east of Berlin. This site can process about 11.6 million tons of crude oil per year, which corresponds to about 11% of Germany’s total oil consumption.

Rosneft wants to buy Anglo-Dutch group Shell’s 37.5% stake in the refinery, increasing its stake 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 nearly 29% of the shares in the major refiners Miro and Bayernoil in southern Germany.

Like Gazprom in the gas sector, Rosneft is also one of the largest oil distributors and logistics companies. According to the daily Handelsblatt, the group companies supply 4,000 major customers in Germany.

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