Natural gas and energy prices in Europe have slumped the most in months after Germany said its fossil fuel reserves are being filled faster than expected.
Benchmark Dutch and German energy futures fell more than 20 percent on Monday, paring the breakneck rally seen in recent weeks. Gasoline stocks in Germany are expected to be 85 percent full next month, ahead of the October target, Economy Minister Robert Habeck said on Sunday.
While that is good news for the market, the fundamental picture still looks bleak: Even with full storage sites, Germany risks not being able to make it through the winter if Russia halts flows to the region’s largest economy. In response, the European Union is planning an urgent reform of the energy market in a bid to cushion skyrocketing prices.
“All market participants are to some extent amazed at the rapid development we have seen in recent trading days,” said Bo Palmgren, chief operating officer at MFT Energy, a Danish trader in Aarhus. “We hope that we will soon see more liquidity in the market and stable prices.”
In another sign of how the crisis is worsening, German energy giant Uniper SE sought on Monday to extend its line of credit with the government to ensure its survival. The region’s largest energy exchange also prompted nations to step up aid to beleaguered traders.
While German utilities have been forced to replenish gas reserves, Habeck’s comments indicate “this buying is going to slow down now,” said James Huckstepp, head of EMEA gas analysis at S&P Comprehensive commodity information.
Habeck has calmed the market somewhat, but the focus will shift to whether flows will resume on the Nord Stream pipeline to Germany from Russia after maintenance later in the week. Lower temperatures to be seen across Eastern Europe and parts of the Iberian Peninsula next week will also help nations conserve gas as less energy will be needed for cooling.
Goldman Sachs Group said the recent big price moves are due in part to very low liquidity, exacerbated by the UK bank holiday on Monday.
“In our view, gas prices in Europe have overshot fundamentals driven by a combination of supply and demand concerns and exceptionally low liquidity in the market,” Goldman Sachs said in a report late Friday. . “Gas demand from Northwest Europe has performed above our forecast, this has been offset by higher than expected supply, keeping storage builds in line with our expectations.”
The EnergyScan unit of Engie SA said on Monday that prices are also probably falling due to profit taking. Prices rose for six straight weeks through Friday.
“The closer we get to the full fill of gas stocks, as of August 27, EU stocks were 79 percent full, the more challenging the bullish momentum will be,” the market analysis unit said.
At the moment, demand destruction is gathering pace as supply shortages hit industries across Europe. Fertilizer companies are being hit especially hard, with more than two-thirds of production capacity disrupted by high gas costs, according to Fertilizers Europe, which represents most of the continent’s producers.
The crisis has triggered increasing action to reduce consumption, with Europe targeting a 15 percent cut in gas use this winter. European governments have started to take the drastic step of limiting energy use, such as banning lighting outside buildings and lowering the temperature of indoor heating. The German economy minister proposed a reform in the electricity markets so that prices are no longer linked to the most expensive supplier.
Meanwhile, pipeline supplies to Europe from Norway have fallen by around 20 percent this month as planned and unplanned outages exacerbate the crisis. Competition for LNG shipments has also increased amid tight supplies.
The benchmark German electricity price for next year plunged 29 percent, after earlier rising to a record 1,050 euros per megawatt-hour. The region’s energy benchmarks have set almost daily records, with prices in Germany and France rising more than 25 percent on Friday.
Dutch gas futures for next month fell as much as 21 percent and 16 percent to 283.97 euros per megawatt-hour at 5:38 p.m. in Amsterdam.