Germany races to stockpile gas before winter

Germany's race to wean itself off Russian energy and stockpile enough gas before winter is playing out largely hidden from view, some 1,600 meters below ground in the foothills of the Bavarian Alps.    

The former Bierwang natural gas field in Unterreit serves as one of Germany's largest underground gas storage facilities.  

Bierwang can hold more than 800 million cubic meters of gas - enough to power the nearby city of Munich for eight months.  

Like other storage sites, Bierwang replenishes its stocks between winters, to keep homes heated and Germany's energy-hungry industry humming during the cold months.    

But this year, the stakes are higher than ever.     

With the war in Ukraine raging and Moscow increasingly seen as an unreliable supplier, governments across Europe are scrambling to store supplies before Moscow decides to reduce the flow of gas, or close the taps altogether.    

Efforts by successive German governments to build closer economic ties with Moscow have left the country hooked on Russian energy imports, a policy now widely seen as misguided.            

Fears that a sudden shortage of Russian gas could bring Europe's biggest economy to its knees recently prompted the German government to adopt legislation requiring all of the nation's gas reservoirs to be 90 percent full by November.     

Altogether, the above and underground sites have enough capacity to cover 25 percent of Germany's natural gas consumption. 

As part of Western sanctions against Moscow, Germany has already agreed to phase out Russian oil and coal. But becoming independent of Russian gas will take longer.    

So far, Berlin has managed to reduce the share of its natural gas supplied by Russia from 55...

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