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FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Maintenance this month at the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to transport Siberian gas into Europe under the Baltic Sea is far from routine given the backdrop of war in Ukraine, western sanctions and Russian's actions so far to limit energy supplies.
The annual maintenance period, which this year starts on July 11 and is scheduled to end on July 21, often passes almost unnoticed by all but traders and the gas industry.
This time, Europe is on edge as concern mounts that Russia's gas giant Gazprom may extend the maintenance period or even declare a permanent halt to supplies.
Even before the maintenance, it reduced the pipeline's flows to 40% of capacity.
The following are facts about the infrastructure.
The 1,224 km (760 mile) twin pipeline has a combined capacity of 55 billion cubic metres, which is equivalent to half of Germany's annual gas consumption.
This is arithmetic only, however, as while most gas of its goes directly to Germany, some also travels west- and southwards via onshore links to foreign destinations and into storage caverns.
It started operations in November 2011 having cost 7.4 billion euros.
It runs from Russian Vyborg near St Petersburg to Lubmin near Greifswald in eastern Germany.
The pipeline is majority-owned by Gazprom and forms the main route through which Russian gas flows to Germany.
Gazprom has 51% and four western partners. PEGI/E.ON and Wintershall Dea have 15.5% each, and French Engie and Dutch Gasunie 9% each.
The project partners injected 30% proportionally to their shareholding in equity and received the other 70% in bank and export credit agency loans.
The Swiss-based Nord Stream AG consortium is the operating company for transit, technical, legal and environmental matters but does not own the asset or the gas in it.
Gazprom Export handles the shipments via contracts with European utilities and gas traders.
There are other big pipelines from Russia to Europe but flows have gradually declined, especially after Ukraine halted one gas transit route in May, blaming interference by occupying Russian forces.
IMPACT IF STAYS SHUT
Should Nord Stream 1 not reopen in mid-July, Europe will not have enough gas supply for the peak demand winter months.
European underground storage sites are just over 60% full and the target is 80% by Nov. 1.
If the pipeline flows continue at 40% capacity or stop completely, Europe will only be able to refill storage to 69% and 60% respectively, consultancies Wood Mackenzie and Rystad Energy calculate.
European gas prices, already at levels three or four times those of a year ago and contributing heavily to inflation and political tensions, would surge.
(Reporting by Vera Eckert and Tom Kaeckenhoff, editing by Barbara Lewis)