MOSCOW/FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Gas flows through the Yamal-Europe pipeline westbound into Germany have stopped again and are flowing in the opposite direction back towards Russia, data from German pipeline operator Gascade showed on Saturday.
The reversal of gas flows through one of the three major pipelines carrying Russian gas into western Europe is the second time the situation has developed in a matter of days. In the past week benchmark European gas futures rose as much as 23% due to the halting of westward flows.
The latest switch comes amid accusations from some regional politicians that the Kremlin is restraining supplies in order to pressure Germany and the European Union to approve the Nord Stream 2 pipeline - currently undergoing licensing procedures in Germany.
Russia has denied this and promised additions to the west from Nov. 8 once its own stocks have been replenished.
Gascade data on Saturday showed entry flows at the Mallnow metering point were zero at 1000 GMT, having been in that condition for three hours, after standing at an hourly volume of more than 3,000,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) since Thursday.
Exit flows at Mallnow - or requests to transport gas into Poland from Germany - stood at 1,442,934 kWh/hour for the second hour running, the data showed.
Flows into Germany at Mallnow, which lies on the Polish border, had been halted last Saturday and were only resumed on Thursday.
A spokesperson for Polish gas company PGNiG said Poland was receiving gas from both directions.
"Everything is fine from our point of view. The contract with Gazprom is being executed," the spokesperson said, referring to the Russian gas major.
Russia has said it is concentrating on replenishing domestic stocks before releasing any more gas to Europe. It expects its own replenishment process to finish by Nov. 8.
The level of Yamal flows between Poland and Germany and their direction are managed by Gaz-System in Poland and Gascade in Germany, based on customers' requests. One analyst said last week the reversal of flows pointed to demand from Poland given generally high prices and tight supplies of liquefied natural gas (LNG).
PGNiG's contract with Gazprom provides for supplies of around 10 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas a year, out of which at least 8.7 bcm under a take-or-pay agreement.
If there is a chance to buy cheaper gas from the West and Poland has already bought enough gas under its agreement with Gazprom, it can switch to deliveries from the West, traders have said.
(Reporting by Alexander Marrow in Moscow, Vera Eckert in Frankfurt, and Anna Koper in Warsaw; Editing by Gareth Jones and David Holmes)