Europe's natural gas reserve at storage facilities across the continent fell to 37.5% in January 2022 from 52% in January 2021, according to data from Gas Infrastructure Europe.
In January 2021, approximately 60 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas was stored across Europe, with facilities at 52% capacity.
In the same period of this year, the reserve decreased by 18 bcm to 42 bcm, causing the overall rate to fall to 37.5%.
Italy has the most natural gas in Europe with 10 bcm, with its stores at 47% capacity. Germany follows Italy with 8.7 bcm at 35% capacity. France is next with 4.4 bcm, accounting for 33%.
In terms of natural gas storage rates, Portugal led Europe with its reserves at 80%, equating to 200 million cubic meters (mcm). The United Kingdom followed with 75%, with 750 mcm in reserves.
Currently, Europe's storage facilities are at 36.6% capacity.
The colder-than-expected winter season and the subsequent spike in energy demand have led to the increased use of natural gas reserves. The decrease in the amount of natural gas sent by Russia to Europe via Ukraine and the drop in production from hydroelectric power plants also contributed to decreasing gas levels in the stores.
Experts also say that there may be problems in the supply of natural gas due to the tensions between Russia and Ukraine. European and U.S. officials are worried that if a war breaks out between the two countries, Russia, which supplies 40% of Europe's gas, will respond to the sanctions by closing the valves.
Russia supplies natural gas to Europe through its energy giant, Gazprom, either through long-term contracts or on one-off trading agreements on the spot market.
Experts argue that Russia is using the contentious Nord Stream-2 gas pipeline, completed despite many obstacles and the disapproval of many European countries, to gain leverage in Europe, flexing its importance in transmitting much-needed energy to Europe.