Bargaining of Russian companies in Germany

Subsidiaries of the giants Gosprom and Rosneft play a key role in Germany’s energy infrastructure (John McDougall / AFP / Archives).

By relying on Russian gas, Germany discovered the heel of another Achilles: the weight of Russian capital in its oil refineries, pipelines and other gas reservoirs.

Subsidiaries of the giants Gazprom and Rosneft play a key role in the country’s energy infrastructure.

Spiegel magazine notes that German political and economic leaders have found themselves “before the ruins” of cooperation with Russia, which has long been considered a guarantee of detention under Vladimir Putin’s regime.

“They have to face the facts, the weekly magazine continues: they did not appeal to the agents of change into Russia, but perhaps to the Trojan horses from the Kremlin”.

– Tanks

In early April, the German government took an unprecedented decision: the temporary takeover of Gasprom’s German subsidiary was a drastic move justified by the opaque change of ownership of the company.

The Minister of Economic Affairs addressed issues related to “public order and national security”.

Russia imports natural gas into the European Union
Russia imports natural gas to EU (Sylvie HUSSON / AFP / Archives)

For good reason: Rehten Reservoir in Lower Saxony (northwest) is owned by Casprom, which accounts for only 20% of Germany’s total gas storage capacity.

With a gas capacity of 4 billion cubic meters, it is the largest supply in Europe. Until 2015 it was owned by the German group BASF, which was sold to Gazprom’s subsidiary Astora.

It is suspected that the Russian group deliberately kept its stockpile in the summer before the invasion of Ukraine. Rehton Reservoir is only 0.5% full.

Astro has additional storage facilities at Gemkum on the border with the Netherlands and Hydok in Austria.

Gosprom Germany also held shares in a large storage facility in a salt cave not far from Hamburg.

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– Distribution networks

Gasket, one of Germany’s largest gas distribution network operators, is 50.03% owned by Gosprom-Germany.

Gas station from operator Cascade in Lupmin, Northeast Germany, September 2021
Gas station from operator Cascade in Lupmin (John McDougall / AFP / Archives) in northeastern Germany in September 2021

The company describes the network of 3,200 km of gas pipelines as “the hub of European natural gas transportation”. Its pipes, called eugle, middle, steel or veda, carry the raw material to German cities.

On its website, the company states that it operates independently: “Gascade’s traffic operations are not influenced by the Gazprom Group or any other partner.”

Other key links, such as the Northern European NEL Gas Pipeline and the Opal Gas Pipeline in the Baltic Sea, are owned by Wiga Transports, of which Gazprom Germania holds 49.98%.

The rest of Cascade and Viga Transport are owned by the German group Wintershall Dea – a third party owned by the Russian oligarch Michael Friedman, now under Western sanctions.

With about 20% market share, Wingas, a 100% subsidiary of Gazprom-Germania, plays a key role in gas distribution, especially to German municipal utilities, industry and power plants.

German government oversight of Gasprom’s subsidiaries is scheduled for September 30. During this period, the government must choose to nationalize and sell to the new owner.

– Refineries

Russian oil company Rosneft, a German subsidiary, claims to supply a quarter of all German crude imports.

PCK refinery on April 2, 2022 in Schweit, east of Berlin
PCK refinery in Schwetz, east of Berlin, April 2, 2022 (John MACDOUGALL / AFP / Archives)

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

Rosneft wants to buy a 37.5% stake in the Anglo-Dutch group Shell in the refinery, raising its stake to 92%.

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The Federal Cartel Office approved the transaction just days before the war broke out. The Ministry of Economy is currently examining whether purchases can be stopped further.

Rosneft Germany also holds 24% and nearly 29% of the shares of major refineries Miro and Bayernol in southern Germany.

Like Gasprom in the gas sector, Rosneft is one of the largest oil distributors and logistics. According to Daily Handelsblatt, the group companies serve 4,000 key customers in Germany.

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