Spain’s gas reserves fell by only 4% between 16 January and 2 February, when it was so cold in Spain. Most gas was withdrawn from storage on 26, 27, 28 January and 1 and 2 February.
According to data on gas reserves and volumes used collected by Gas Infrastructure Europe (GIE), a Brussels-based organisation representing energy companies, operators and infrastructure across Europe, Spanish gas reserves fell by only 4% from 16 January to 2 February. Due to the two weeks of sub-zero temperatures in much of the country, Spanish gas reserves fell slightly from 93.56% in the middle of last month to 89.9% on the second day of February. The EU countries with the lowest reserves are Latvia (44.4%), Hungary (50%), Romania (62.8%), France (63.5%) and the Netherlands (68.1%).
The EU average is 71.6%, three months after countries were required to bring these reserves to 80%. For the winter of 2023-2024, member states have committed to getting 90% of reserves full by November, something Spain is already practically achieving.
Release of reserves
According to data from the EIG, Spain has an annual gas consumption of 338 terrawatt-hours (TWh). Each terrawatt is equivalent to a billion kilowatt-hours -, can store a maximum of 35.2 TWh of gas – of which there are now 31.6 – and can release a maximum of 126 gigawatt-hours (GWh) per day from its reserves.
Yet Spain’s well-stocked reserves do lag behind the total storage capacity of other European countries. It is higher in Spain than in Romania and Latvia and Portugal, Denmark, Croatia, Bulgaria and Belgium, where storage capacity does not exceed 10 TWh. But Spain is behind Germany (244.2 TWh), Italy (193.4), the Netherlands (138.9) and France (11.6).
During the last two weeks of particularly cold days, the last days of January and the first two days of February were the days when the most gas had to be withdrawn from reserves, although this was below the daily limit. 101 GWh of gas was withdrawn from storage on 26 January and 107 GWh per day on 27 and 28 January. The need to tap gas reserves decreased again and on 30 and 31 January, only 10.5 GWh and 125 GWh had to be tapped, respectively. The need rose again on February 1 and 2, when withdrawals were the highest since early 2023, 127 GWh per day.
More gas for electricity
These figures confirm the claims of Spain’s energy minister, Teresa Ribera. She stated before the start of winter that no shortages were to be expected. All this despite the fact that the Corporation of Strategic Reserves of Petroleum Products (CORES) confirmed that 2022 ended with consumption of gas to generate electricity much higher than 2021, by 50%.
Decline in gas consumption
In December last year alone, gas consumption fell by 27.5% and in the three categories covered by CORES: conventional use – residential and industrial – which fell by 32.3%, liquefied natural gas use for direct use (-31.4%) and use for electricity generation (-14.5%).
The trend becomes different if the development over the whole of 2022 is taken into account. Consumption of conventional gas fell by 20.2% last year and that of gas for electricity generation rose by 50.8%. We have seen this trend since the introduction of the Iberian mechanism and the increase in electricity exports from Spain to France and Portugal.