Germany could start refilling gas storage caverns from mid-March

(Reuters) - Germany may be able to start filling gas storage facilities ahead of the 2024-25 winter as early as next week, operators group INES said, a task made easier as high levels of gas remain from the heating season that ends this month.

Boosting storage was one of Germany's responses to being mostly cut off from Russian pipeline gas in 2022, alongside other measures such as reduced energy use.

"Extensive emptying of the gas storage facilities is no longer expected in the remainder of winter 2023/2024," INES said in a statement issued as part of its regular monitoring processes.

Provided temperatures are warm, it said "new feeds into storage would be possible as early as mid-March".

Germany has imported more pipeline and liquefied natural gas (LNG) from non-Russian origins, mostly from Norway and via Belgium and the Netherlands.

It also increased its LNG purchases directly from the world market, helped by quickly installed floating reception and regasification terminals.

These measures have helped to lower prices that hit record levels in 2022. European Union wholesale gas prices fell to near-three-year lows earlier this month.

Warm temperatures in February, on track to be the world's warmest yet, reduced withdrawals of gas from storage, which INES said have left storage levels above historic averages, making it possible to fill up to 100% for the coming winter.

Filling levels on Tuesday stood at 68% of the infrastructure's total capacity, well above a legally mandated minimum of 40% defined for Feb. 1, the website of European storage operators group GIE showed.

German underground storage caverns hold 255.2 terawatt hours (TWh) of gas supply, equating to nearly a third of the nation's gas usage last year.

INES' members include the Astora company within the SEFE group, VNG Gasspeicher, Uniper UN01.DE, and RWE RWEG.DE, and together hold 25% of the European Union's gas storage capacity.

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