Monday, specialized technicians on the Russian pipe-laying barge Fortuna welded together the very last section of pipe of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.
The pipe – number 200 858 for the giant double pipeline project – was lowered to the seabed in the German waters of the Baltic Sea. In the next step, the section of the pipeline that goes to the German shore will be connected to the section coming from Danish Baltic waters.
Once the last connection is completed, the operator Nord Stream 2 AG will perform pre-commissioning tasks to test and verify the integrity of the system. The aim is to put the pipeline into service before the end of this year and to start delivering Russian natural gas to German customers.
According to its sponsors, Nord Stream 2 will help meet the long-term needs of the European energy market at a “reasonable” price. However, the development is controversial: for the United States and its allies in Ukraine and Poland, it represents a geostrategic risk. The line offers Russia a new way to transport its abundant natural gas production to the European market, potentially bypassing coastal networks in Poland and Ukraine. The Ukrainian government is increasingly concerned that Moscow will use Nord Stream 2 to exclude its neighbors from the gas transport sector, depriving Kiev of much-needed revenue. Ukraine has been engaged for years in a low-intensity conflict with Russian-backed separatist militias in its eastern Donbass region, and the new gas route could give Russia further leverage in border disputes.
For environmentalists, Nord Stream 2 opens the door to the expansion of Russia’s natural gas industry, which has one of the world’s highest rates of methane leakage from mining and transportation activities. . Methane is about 80 times more potent than CO2 as a greenhouse gas over a 20-year period, and climatologists are increasingly convinced that it is a key driver of short-term warming. “We are certain that Nord Stream 2 would not have been approved with the scientific findings now available,” says Constantin Zerger, head of energy and climate protection at Environmental Action Germany (DUH).
For Germany, the gas pipeline is an essential means of ensuring an adequate supply of energy for domestic consumers and industrial users. It is also a supporting factor on the supply side in Germany’s drive to phase out nuclear and coal-fired power plants. Completing the line has been a top priority for Chancellor Angela Merkel’s administration, despite strong opposition from NATO allies to Germany.