SATELLITE pics show Vladimir Putin is burning £8.4million of unused gas every day – while families face crippling energy bill hikes.
Massive orange flames are seen shooting into the sky at a natural gas plant after Russia shut the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to Europe.
A colourised version of a satellite image shows infrared radiation from the burning of gas at the Portovaya plant in RussiaCredit: Not known, clear with picture desk
Locals have spotted giant orange flares from across the border in FinlandCredit: East2West
International gas prices rocketed after Russia invaded Ukraine, and spiked again after it shut off the undersea pipeline.
Households across Europe face potential blackouts and energy rationing, while today the UK price cap almost doubled.
Putin has been accused of putting a squeeze on Europe in revenge for its support for Ukraine and sanctions on the regime.
And now images from space show gas “flaring” on a massive scale at Gazprom’s compressor plant at Portovaya north of St Petersburg.
Locals across the border in Finland had previously spotted giant orange flames rising from the plant since late June.
The unused gas would normally have been exported to Germany but was burnt instead, the BBC reports.
Analysts at Rystad Energy calculate around 4.34million cubic metres of gas is being burned by the flare every day, worth $10million.
The research company’s Sindre Knutsson said: “While the exact reasons for the flaring are unknown, the volumes, emissions and location of the flare are a visible reminder of Russia’s dominance in Europe’s energy markets.
“There could not be a clearer signal – Russia can bring energy prices down tomorrow.
“This is gas that would otherwise have been exported via Nord Stream 1 or alternatives.”
A thermal imaging satellite spotted a significant rise in heat emanating from the facility.
Flaring – deliberately burning off excess gas – is a common safety measure at processing plants, but the scale has stunned experts.
“I’ve never seen an LNG plant flare so much,” said Dr Jessica McCarty, an expert on satellite data from Miami University in Ohio.
“Starting around June, we saw this huge peak, and it just didn’t go away. It’s stayed very anomalously high.”
State-controlled Gazprom did not comment on the flaring.
It has previously claimed the pipeline was shut for technical reasons, but Germany says it was purely political.
Industry experts say the gas fields cannot easily stop production, and because the pipe is shut there is nowhere for it to go and they have to burn it in the open air.
Others suggested Gazprom might have hoped to turn it into liquid natural gas – which can be stored – but is lacking vital equipment.
Esa Vakkilainen of Finland’s LUT University said: “Because of the trade embargo with Russia, they are not able to make the high-quality valves needed in oil and gas processing.
“So maybe there are some valves broken and they can’t get them replaced.”
Held to ransom
Gas prices were already high before the Ukraine war as demand soared after the lifting of Covid restrictions.
But prices skyrocketed after the invasion as Russia is one of the world’s biggest producers.
Continental Europe is heavily reliant in Russian gas imports, leading to fears of winter blackouts, rationing and factory closures in Germany.
Only a tiny fraction of Britain’s gas comes directly from Russia.
But the UK relies more on gas for generating electricity than European neighbours because it has less nuclear and renewable energy.
Britain also has little storage capacity, forcing energy firms to buy gas on the highly volatile short-term spot market.
Even the abundant North Sea gas is sold to the UK based on international market prices.
Domestic gas and electricity bills will soar to an average £3,549 from October 1, Ofgem confirmed today.
The eye-watering 80 per cent rise will hit 24million households.
Energy bills have rocketed 35 times faster than wages, fuelling inflation and the cost of living crisis.
Economists say most of the painful price increases are due to the war in Ukraine and Putin holding the West to ransom.
Ari Laine photographed this huge flare from Finland, around 24 miles from the Portovaya facilityCredit: Not known, clear with picture desk
Russia is burning off huge quantities of unused natural gasCredit: East2West
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