Even as a mild start to European winter and a glut of LNG cargoes calm natural gas prices on the continent, governments are urging greater gas conservation as the risks of spiking demand pile up.

European Union natural gas storage is currently above 95%, ahead of the bloc’s 80% target for winter, as the region winds down net injections. Import terminals around the continent have also become surrounded with liquefied natural gas vessels waiting for slots to unload or a jump in prices, helping relax the market.

The prompt Dutch Title Transfer Facility (TTF) has started ticking up over the past few days, but is still around 65% below the record highs of August. The TTF price for January gas closed at around $36/MMBtu Thursday.

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However, as forecasts for severe cold loom and Russian pipeline imports dwindle to a trickle, the Swiss government has warned large industrial gas consumers to prepare for the worst. After reviewing its supply situation and previous protocols, cabinet officials tightened up possible conservation efforts and warned businesses could be cut from gas supplies if residents are forced to ration energy.

“Due to the particularities of domestic gas consumption – with a high share of building heat – all consumer groups will probably have to make an appropriate contribution to saving gas already at the beginning of a shortage situation,” the Swiss cabinet said, as reported by Reuters.

Switzerland’s gas consumption is lower than other EU members, making up around 15% of its annual energy consumption, according to the International Energy Agency. Most of its volumes are imported from trading hubs on the continent.

The EU previously urged members to participate in a 15% voluntary cut in gas consumption between August and March. The Oxford Institute for Energy Studies estimated members were above that target in October, with natural gas demand reported at 71% of the five-year average.

Germany, which has a goal to reduce gas consumption by 20% through the winter, is showing signs that cutbacks might be more related to high prices than industrial curtailment. Earlier in the week, Germany’s gas market manager Trading Hub Europe reported receiving no takers from German businesses on offers to auction their portions of their gas supplies, temporarily reducing consumption.

Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action reported this week that gas consumption was still under the four-year average, but had risen by 10% since the beginning of the month despite higher average temperatures.

“Avoiding a national gas supply emergency this winter depends on three things: cutting gas consumption by at least 20%, LNG terminals starting operation at the beginning of next year, and the winter decrease in imports and the increase in exports – which are currently at a particularly low level – being relatively small,” ministry officials wrote.

Europe’s Next ‘Storage Building Frenzy’

In a note from Goldman Sachs Commodity Research, analysts recently improved Europe’s storage outlook to 30% full by March, up from 21-23%. However, analysts noted the concern for the EU is shifting from surviving the current winter to bearing the cost of refilling storage levels before the next one.

ClearView Energy Partners LLC wrote possible increased LNG demand from China and other Asian buyers and even less Russian pipeline supply for Europe could leave already financially strained firms on the continent in dire straits.

“Our models indicate a lean global liquefaction project queue in 2023-2024, coupled with rising Chinese demand, could result in a repeat of this year’s European gas storage building frenzy again in the next two years,” analysts wrote.

After Nord Stream 1 was damaged by apparent explosives earlier in the year, European countries still receiving Russian gas have had to rely on the roughly 40 MMcm/d of gas still making its way through Ukraine. ClearView wrote Russia could be inspired to continue curtailing supplies and target Ukrainian energy infrastructure as western countries advance sanctions on the country’s crude oil exports.