With various operators reporting lower gas supply levels from Gazprom and against the backdrop of the Ukraine standoff, gas storage facilities and their storage levels became the focus of media attention, and rightly so.
The importance of gas storage is obvious - with falling imports (whatever the reason), gas needs must be met either from increased production or by reaching for previously stored "backups".
Gas Infrastructure Europe provides a handy table on gas storage levels here and I have reason to believe that most journalists reach for this resource when writing their reports, such as this one in the Wall Street Journal. (paywall)
While it's a good starting point, I have a major problem with it, because it merely looks at how much gas storage tanks are filled up, and completely disregards their relation to gas consumption. My country, Hungary, is a case in pont - report after report shows Hungary with a meagre fifty-some percentage storage level, which is indeed worst in class.
However, this doesn't mean that Hungary is waiting for the coming winter with shields down, far from it. It is because Hungary invested massively in energy security in the past few years, creating, on the one hand, the EU's 4th largest gas storage capacity, and building, on the other hand, interconnectors with our neighbours in key directions.
This mega-storage capacity means that we can store much more in relation to our gas needs than most other countries, hence the lower figure for storage levels.
To put this into perspective, I created the table below based on open source data that shows that in relation to gas needs, Hungary is actually the 4th best prepared country in the EU. It also shows the Netherlands as the "worst prepared", even though their storage tanks are 98% filled, but then again, they are also a special case, with large natural reserves to rely on.
|Stored gas||% Full||Stored/Consumption|
|*Latvian storage facilities store gas for the three Baltic states|
|Ammounts in million cubic meters|
|Consumption: (2013 where available, 2012 otherwise)|