The operator of Russia’s natural gas pipeline to Europe, Nord Stream 2 AG, has secured permission to continue work in the Baltic Sea and may finish one of the two branches of the route in the first half of the year.
Germany’s Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency (BSH) said on Friday that work on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline in the nation’s exclusive economic zone can continue. The agency expanded the previous timeframe as requested by the operator, ruling that the construction of the remaining kilometers of the gas route can be extended until the end of May.
Germany’s go-ahead came after similar permission from Danish authorities. This week, the Danish Energy Agency (DEA) said that it had received a new schedule from the Nord Stream 2 operator that showed that work could have started on Friday, 15 January.
The same timeframe for the resumption of pipe laying was earlier mentioned in a Bloomberg report, which cited the company’s schedule and people familiar with the matter. The document reportedly shows that one section of the two-string pipeline could be largely finished as soon as June. The Russian-flagged pipe laying vessel Fortuna is reportedly expected to complete work in Danish seas by the end of May, where some 120 kilometers are unfinished, and then lay around 30 kilometers of pipes in German waters.
However, the operator later clarified that the green-light from the European regulators does not necessarily mean that work will start immediately.
“We have permission from the Danish energy agency to start work from Friday. However, this does not mean that we will also resume laying pipes on Friday,” Handelsblatt quoted the Nord Stream 2 spokesman as saying. According to the company’s representative, it will further decide when it can restart work at the end of January or in early February.
The $11 billion gas project in the Baltic Sea, developed by Russia and supported by its European partners, has been largely criticized by the US, which has its own interests in the lucrative European energy market. While claiming that Nord Stream 2 would deepen Germany and Europe’s dependence on Russia, Washington has been trying to derail the project, threatening the companies involved in it with sanctions.
The first company to ditch Nord Stream 2 due to looming US restrictions was offshore contractor Allseas. The firm withdrew its vessels from the pipe laying site in the Baltic Sea at the end of 2019, forcing Russia to dispatch its own ships to complete the remaining section of the offshore pipeline.
As Washington kept increasing pressure on the contractors, more companies pulled out of the project. In the last three weeks, two more firms turned their back on the project due to the US restrictions. Norwegian certifier Det Norske Veritas–Germanischer Lloyd (DNV GL) announced the decision to sever ties at the beginning of the year, while Dutch consulting group Ramboll was reported to have quit the project earlier this week.
For more stories on economy & finance visit RT’s business section