A German storage facility on Austrian soil: the Haidach gas storage facility near Salzburg has always been something special. Now the Austrian government wants to tap it for its own people. In Bavaria one reacts calmly – but sets conditions.

Austria’s government wants to tap into the gas storage facility in Haidach near Salzburg, which is connected to the German grid, this year. “We have decided that all gas storage facilities on Austrian territory must be connected to our network,” said the Austrian Minister for Climate Protection and Energy, Leonore Gewessler (Greens) of the “Süddeutsche Zeitung” (SZ, Monday edition).

“This decision is final,” Gewessker added. She expects that “a first connection” to the Austrian gas network will take place “this year”. The gas storage facilities in Austria are currently 50 percent full.

The storage facility in Haidach, a district of Straßwalchen north-east of Salzburg, can hold 2.7 billion cubic meters of gas in its storage facilities. But so far Germany, not Austria, has access to the gas there, because Haidach is exclusively connected to the German gas network.

The so-called Austria Bavaria Gas Pipeline (ABG), which then brings the gas to Bavaria, is fed from the warehouse in Haidach. A major customer is the Bavarian border town of Burghausen, 40 kilometers away, with the so-called “chemical triangle”, one of the most important industrial regions in Bavaria. But some private households in Munich, Ingolstadt and Regensburg are also supplied with gas from the pipeline. There are also indirect deliveries to the Austrian federal states of Tyrol and Vorarlberg, which are supplied from Germany for geographical reasons.

The fact that a German gas storage facility is located on Austrian soil is due to a coincidence. A large gas deposit was discovered in Haidach in 1997. Ten years later, when the gas had run out, a German-Austrian consortium converted the gas field into a storage facility that was to supply nearby Bavaria. A few years later, most of the companies involved were taken over by Gazprom.

Before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, two-thirds of the storage facility was in the hands of subsidiaries of the Russian state-owned company Gazprom. A few weeks ago, Austria withdrew the group’s approval because Gazprom was no longer filling up the storage facility. The government in Vienna is planning to set up a strategic gas reserve that is to be distributed across all storage facilities in the country – including Haidach. In return, Austria wants to be able to use the storage facility for its own purposes in the future. To this end, an agreement is to be concluded with Germany.

The Bavarian state government reacted accordingly calmly to Gewessler’s announcement. “It is important that the memory is finally filled quickly,” said Economics Minister Hubert Aiwanger (free voters) to the Bavarian radio. It is understandable that Austria wants to access the memory. “But we’re all in the same boat across Europe when it comes to gas supply and we have to support each other.”

Prime Minister Markus Söder (CSU) has been calling for the gas storage facility, which is important for Bavarian industry, to be filled up for weeks. The necessary agreement between Berlin and Vienna must be launched “as soon as possible”, he said at the beginning of July.