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Rhine River drops to record lows, restricting shipping and exacerbating the European energy crisis

rhine river record low emmerich germany

The water level on the Rhine River as measured by the Emmerich gauge in northern Germany is at a record low for this time of year.

If it keeps going down at this rate, the all-time record that was established in 2018 might be beaten very soon – and a lot sooner than it was back then.

The river at Kaub in east-central Germany – a key waypoint for the shipment of commodities – is expected to drop to 47 centimeters (18.5 inches) on August 6. That would take it to within 7 cm (2.75 inches) of being impassable.1

An impassable river could halt the flow of everything from fuel to chemicals as European governments try to prevent the continent’s worst energy-supply crisis in decades tipping the region into recession.

“Coal shipments are already restricted by low water levels because fewer ships are available, and the ones that are ready to use carry less cargo,” energy supplier EnBW AG said .

“Shipment costs for coal are therefore increasing, which in turn inflates the costs of operating coal plants.”

Transporting petroleum to Basel, Switzerland, currently costs more than 200 euros ($204) per ton. That’s the most in at least three years, and it’s up from 25 euros a few months ago.

Warm winter, lack of rainfall and excessive heat have already played a significant role in the crisis, pushing the European benchmark electricity prices to all-time highs on August 2.2

As a result, countries are relying even more on Russian gas to meet increased power demand instead of storing it for the coming winter season, as recently agreed in Brussels.

“With the Rhine transport disrupted and alternatives such as rail and road looking increasingly expensive, it will be difficult for Germany and Switzerland to build gasoil/diesel stocks before temperatures cool,” said Josh Folds, a European oil analyst at consultants Facts Global Energy. 

References:

1 Europe’s Rhine River Is on the Brink of Effectively Closing – Bloomberg – August 2, 2022

2 Drought and heat drive European electricity prices to all-time highs – The Watchers – August 2, 2022

Featured image credit: WetterOnline (stillshot)

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