German gas import costs surge 153% in first half as imports drop 24%

A compressor station of the Jagal natural gas pipeline is pictured at a gas compressor station in Mallnow, Germany, June 13, 2022. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke

FRANKFURT, Aug 18 (Reuters) - German natural gas import costs rose by 153% in the first six months of 2022 from a year earlier, even though imports were down by 24.3%, official data showed on Thursday.

Europe's biggest economy mainly imports gas from Russia, Norway, the Netherlands, Britain and Denmark, but has turned more to liquefied natural gas (LNG) since the Ukraine crisis.

The June statistics from Germany's foreign trade office are the fourth to reflect the impact of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which began on Feb. 24, and Western sanctions against what the Kremlin calls a "special military operation".

Russia has cut flows through Nord Stream 1, the major gas delivery route to Europe via Germany, to a fifth of its capacity, forcing importers and governments to scramble for substitutes before the heating season from October.

Gas, power and carbon traders monitor gas imports because the supply and demand balance affects prices and traded volumes in all three markets.

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

German foreign trade office BAFA's monthly statistics, which are published with a roughly two-month delay, showed January-June imports at 2,023,691 terajoules (TJ), or 57.5 billion cubic metres (bcm), compared with 2,671,691 TJ a year earlier.

As supply disruptions propelled gas prices to record highs, Germany's import bill increased to 30.8 billion euros ($31.20 billion) in the six month period, compared with 12.2 billion euros in the same period of 2021, BAFA data showed.

The average price paid on the border during January to June was up 234% year on year at 15,243.71 euros/TJ, BAFA said.

The June alone price of 17,594.31 euros, equivalent to 6.33 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh), was more than three times that of June 2021.

German gas inventories are at 77.8% of available storage capacity, European gas infrastructure group GIE's website showed. This compared with 55.1% a year ago.

($1 = 0.9873 euros)

Reporting by Vera Eckert; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle

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