Norway is Europe’s second-largest energy supplier after Russia and the strike had pushed gas prices to their highest level in four months.
The Norwegian government has proposed a compulsory wage arbitration to settle the dispute, the statement said.
“We normally exercise significant restraint before intervening with compulsory wage arbitration,” Labor Minister Marte Mjøs Persen said after he summoned oil companies and workers to a meeting late Tuesday. “However, the serious consequences of the announced escalations have forced my hand in intervening.”
The Norwegian oil and gas employers’ lobby had said the strikes could have halted almost 60% of Norwegian gas exports to Europe from July 9.
The closure of the three fields resulted in the loss of the equivalent of about 89,000 barrels of oil a day, Norway’s state-owned energy company Equinor said in a statement.
Germany, the region’s biggest economy, has already declared a “gas crisis” and warned it can’t rule out introducing rationing to get through the winter.
News of the strike helped push European natural gas futures prices up 5% to hit 172 euros ($177) per megawatt hour, data from the Intercontinental Exchange showed. That’s the highest price since early March in the days following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs emphasizes that Russia’s offensive war against Ukraine has had a major impact on security of supply in many European countries,” the Norwegian government said in its statement.
“There is an immediate risk of additional energy shortages in Europe. A reduction in Norwegian gas deliveries will worsen the energy crisis, in addition to the inherent political, financial and societal consequences. Norway must do everything in its power to the Bolster European energy security and European solidarity against Russian aggression.”
An uncertain winter
Gas flows through Nord Stream 1 are currently running at just 40% of capacity, according to an analysis by S&P Global Platts.
To add to the uncertainty, deliveries through the pipeline are due to stop completely for 10 days from the start of next week for maintenance work.
“The concern is rather that gas shipments may be even further reduced or not even resumed at all following the maintenance work,” Carsten Fritsch, analyst for energy, agriculture and precious metals at Commerzbank, wrote in a note on Tuesday.
“This would make it virtually impossible to replenish European natural gas stocks for next winter and would necessitate further-reaching political measures and cuts to gas consumption,” he added.
Gas storage facilities in the EU are about 59% full, data from Gas Infrastructure Europe show. That is about three percentage points below usual storage levels for this time of year, Fritsch said.
Alex Froley, an analyst at the Independent Commodity Intelligence Services, told CNN Business the bigger problem facing Europe was the closure of a major liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant in the United States.
“Gas demand for heating is greatly reduced in summer, though, and Norway always carries out some maintenance in summer — so it’s not an immediate physical problem for the market to see some reductions,” Froley said.
“[The Freeport LNG plant has] been a big source of supply for Europe this year, and isn’t expected back until October at the earliest,” he added.