Data from various German SOs show that in March imports were up y/y by 1.5 bcm (23%). While imports from Russia and Norway continued to grow, by another 725 mcm (16.6%) and 668 mcm (20%), imports from the Netherlands fell again y/y by 171 mcm (-12.6%). The unexpected growth in total imports comes despite the significantly warmer than average weather in Germany over March, with 22% fewer HDDs than the five-year average and 41% fewer HDDs y/y.
Total exports were lower again y/y by 288 mcm (19%), mainly due to lower regional demand. Exports to Belgium fell significantly y/y by 1.03 bcm (-95%) and to France by 788 mcm (-58%). Over March, Germany was a net exporter to Austria, exporting 410 mcm after having imported 790 mcm of gas last March. Exports to Switzerland increased by 246 mcm y/y (49%).
As result of stronger supplies and lower heating demand in March, storage withdrawal rates fell significantly y/y and Germany took 3.9 bcm less gas out of storage over the month. As of 1 April, German gas storage levels were 8.27 bcm (187%) above a year ago. The lagged data for domestic German gas production for January placed output at 840 mcm, down by 70 mcm (-8%) y/y.
In short, a warmer March means that implied German gas demand fell by around 2.3 bcm y/y.
We are forecasting that with the warmer than normal Q1 14, German gas demand in this quarter will fall y/y by 6.0 bcm (-22%), broadly unchanged from our previous forecast. The 4.8 GW of coal plants coming online will weigh on German power sector gas demand as we go forward. We are forecasting that the combined impact of the weather in Q1 14 and lower power sector demand through the year will result in gas consumption falling by 6.7 bcm y/y in 2014, before it rebounds by 2.1 bcm y/y in 2015 on weather-related base effects.