(Bloomberg) -- Natural gas prices in Europe declined as rising stockpiles and stable Russian supplies counter some risk on Russian new payment rules. 

Benchmark front-month Dutch futures dropped as much as 3.3% to 88 euros per megawatt-hour, heading for a 9.1% weekly loss. 

Europe’s gas inventories are rebounding to near their seasonal levels as companies prepare for any potential disruption from Russia, the continent’s top supplier. Russian gas shipments to Europe on Friday are expected to be stable. 

The European Union wants to keep stockpiles high to guarantee the continent’s energy security, especially given the risk of curtailments amid the war in Ukraine. Lawmakers and nations reached a deal on Thursday to set a minimum inventory threshold before winter. Storage operators will have to keep a minimum 80% level before Nov. 1, increasing to 90% for subsequent winters.

European storage levels have jumped 24% this month and are close to the 45% five-year average, according to Gas Infrastructure Europe.

Russian gas shipments to Europe on Friday are expected to be almost unchanged on the previous day, according to gas orders and flow data. Flows via the Nord Stream pipeline, the biggest link delivering Russian supplies to the EU, are expected to be near full capacity. 

Meanwhile, traders remain on the edge and seek more clarity on Moscow’s rules for payment of gas in rubles. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said Thursday that about half of the 54 buyers of gas have opened ruble accounts.

The “market holds it breath” as payments come due, Energi Danmark said in a report on Thursday. Moscow has already cut off supplies to Poland and Bulgaria, and Finland has said there’s a “real risk” that flows will end this week as it’s refusing to pay in rubles.

Read More: Finnish Industry Braces for End of Russian Natural Gas Flows


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