The details of the last stage of construction of Nord Stream-2 have been officially announced. The Fortuna pipelayer, which is already laying pipes at the unfinished Danish section, will be joined by Akademik Chersky. Moreover, the deadline for the completion of the construction of the gas pipeline, which must be met, is the end of September 2021.
Stanislav Mitrakhovich, a leading expert of the National Energy Security Fund, is cautious in his assessments:
“It is too early to talk about the completion of the project. Anything else can happen. They want to build it by September, because then there will be elections in Germany (where a new chancellor will be elected). The pressure on the project can increase. To prevent this from happening, we need to finish it faster”.
Theoretically, it is quite possible to complete both lines in Danish waters by means of two pipe-laying vessels by September. Since the start of the resumption of work on February 6, “Fortuna” laid just over 18 km, including 1.3 km in the last day. This means that it remains to complete about 100 km of the pipe. In the best case, the first gas via Nord Stream-2 will be delivered at the end of 2021 – just before the new heating season. But the complexity of the project will not end there.
Next, Gazprom will have a difficult path to fight against the antimonopoly legislation of the EU, which has introduced restrictions on the pumping of blue fuel through the pipe. The design capacity of the gas pipeline is 55 billion cubic meters of gas, but Brussels allowed Gazprom to pump only half of the possible volume – 27.5 billion cubic meters. The second half of the pipe is supposedly to be filled with some kind of alternative gas – not Gazprom’s. In fact, the pipeline will be just half empty.
Gazprom will have two ways of solving the problem: either to obtain an exemption for Nord Stream-2 from European energy rules through the courts, or to move the point of delivery and acceptance of gas at sea – to where the exclusive economic zone of Germany begins. If gas is sold to traders at sea, then the problem with the gas pipeline occupancy is removed. But this is not an easy thing – the terms of gas contracts will have to be changed with all buyers in Europe. Europeans are likely to take advantage of this through bargaining.
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“All this can still drag on for a long time. But we need to solve problems as they come. So far, the task is to physically build a gas pipeline”, – the FNEB expert concludes.