July 5 (UPI) -- Russia plans to shut down Europe's largest gas pipeline, Nord Stream, for annual maintenance, next week with some in Germany fearing the temporary shut-down could become permanent.
Russian gas company Gazprom, which owns the Nord Stream 1 pipeline that runs under the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany, announced maintenance is scheduled to run from July 11 to 22 to "test mechanical and automated systems."
But some in the European Union, which now relies on the Russian pipeline for about 40% of its gas, are not convinced the testing will run according to schedule.
"We cannot rule out the possibility that gas transport will not be resumed afterwards for political reasons," Klaus Mueller, Head of Germany's energy regulator told CNBC.
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- Russia cuts off natural gas supply to Finland
If supply "doesn't come back after maintenance because President Putin plays games or wants to hit Europe while it hurts, then the plan to fill up gas storage by the end of summer will probably not work," Henning Gloystein, director of energy, climate and resources at Eurasia Group told CNBC.
Germany, Italy, Austria and the Netherlands are all prepared to use coal-fired plants to make up for any new gas shortages. A number of European countries have also been filling underground storage with natural gas supplies to make sure there is enough fuel for the winter.
Last month, Gazprom announced it was cutting its output to Europe because of a maintenance issue, forcing Germany to warn its citizens to conserve.
"The gas flows from the Nord Stream 1 were throttled yesterday to around 40% of the maximum capacity," Germany's Ministry of Economics and Climate Protection said on its website.
German leaders saw the move as an attack on Europe over its rebuke of Russia's war in Ukraine and now worry next week's maintenance could drag on longer.
"Germany has Europe's biggest population, it's the biggest economy, it's the biggest gas consumer, it's the biggest single importer of Russian gas, and it has got nine land borders," Gloystein said. "So, whatever happens in Germany spills into the rest of Europe."