Photo: Fortuna; Source: Verdijk Maritiem

Gazprom restarts Nord Stream 2 pipe laying in Danish waters

The consortium behind the Gazprom-led Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline has resumed pipe laying offshore Denmark despite mounting pressure on the project from Washington.

According to an article by Reuters, construction of the link, which would double the capacity of the existing Nord Stream pipeline to 110 billion cubic metres of gas per year, was suspended in December 2019 due to the threat of sanctions from Washington.

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Construction of the pipeline is mostly complete but around 120 kilometres are left to be laid in Danish waters as well as 30 kilometres in German waters, before it makes landfall at the northern German coastal town of Lubmin, near Greifswald.

The United States has long said the pipeline will increase Russian leverage over Europe and bypass Ukraine, depriving Kyiv of lucrative transit fees. The United States is also keen to sell its sea-borne liquefied natural gas to European countries. Also, President Joe Biden stated that Nord Stream 2 was a “bad deal for Europe”.

However, the German government has stood by the project and late in December a vessel called the Fortuna, which was subsequently put under sanctions by Washington, laid a 2.6-kilometre portion of the pipeline in German waters.

It is worth noting that the consortium told Reuters in an emailed comment on Saturday that the latest pipe-laying activities by the Fortuna followed the successful completion of sea trials, adding: “All works are performed in line with the relevant permits. We will provide further information about the construction works and further planning in due time”.

Given its major economic and strategic significance, Nord Stream 2 has been increasingly in focus following the jailing of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny and the announcement of the expulsion of European diplomats from Russia from last Friday.

On 5 February, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Berlin was sticking with its support for the pipeline. Germany’s position is that it is a commercial project.

The Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project is led by Russian giant Gazprom with half of the funding coming from five European partners – Germany’s Uniper, BASF’s Wintershall, Anglo-Dutch Shell, Austria’s OMV, and Engie.

The project is designed as two parallel 48-inch lines, roughly 1,200 kilometres long, each starting southwest of St. Petersburg and ending at German coast, Greifswald.

The gas pipelines will have the capacity to transport 55 billion cubic meters of Russian gas a year to the EU, for at least 50 years.