The last pipe welded: Nord Stream 2 is complete celebration. Press Photo: Nord Stream 2

Last night, the Russian Nord Stream 2 was completed but it is still unclear when gas will be flowing towards the EU.

The Ukrainian efforts to stop the completion of Nord Stream 2 have failed. The last pipe was welded yesterday and the construction of Nord Stream 2 is now complete. It connects Russia’s gas fields with the EU market and offers an alternative to Ukrainian gas transit.

“On September 6, 2021, specialists on the lay-barge Fortuna welded the last pipe of the two strings of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. The pipe number 200,858 will be lowered onto the seabed in German waters. As the next step, the section of the pipe coming from the German shore will be connected to the section coming from the Danish waters in a so-called above water tie-in,” wrote the operating company behind Nord Stream 2.

It is still unclear when gas will be flowing towards the EU market. First, some said that it will be done in a matter of a few days but it seems that more testing will be needed. 

“Afterwards, the required pre-commissioning activities are carried out with the goal to put the pipeline into operation before the end of this year. Nord Stream 2 will contribute to meeting long-term needs of the European energy market for gas imports, improving supply security and reliability, and providing gas under sensible economic conditions,” the operating company wrote.

Nord Stream 2 Vessel Castoro 10 doing a AWTI in the Baltic Sea close to Ruegen (11.08.19)
Press photo: Axel Schmidt/Nord Stream 2.

The Ukrainian nightmare

The completion of Nord Stream 2 has cost around 11 billion dollars and it doubles the capacity of the existing Nord Stream pipeline to the EU. Ukraine has been against the project as it makes it possible for Russia to bypass Ukraine. Today, much Russian gas is going through Ukraine but isn’t necessary anymore with the completion of Nord Stream 2.

Not only Ukraine has been trying to stop the completion of Nord Stream 2. The U.S. previously sanctioned the project which showed effectiveness in halting its completion. However, back in July, the U.S. made a deal with Germany about the completion of the project which angered Ukraine. 

Germany and the U.S. agree on Nord Stream 2: Ukraine is angry

“The United States and Germany are steadfast in their support for Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, independence, and chosen European path. We recommit ourselves today to push back against Russian aggression and malign activities in Ukraine and beyond. The United States pledges to support Germany’s and France’s efforts to bring peace to eastern Ukraine via the Normandy Format,” wrote the Federal Foreign Office of Germany.

The German and U.S. guarantees haven’t stopped the critical voices in Ukraine. The guarantees are often seen as vague and Ukrainian politicians have said that the EU is becoming too dependent on Russian gas with the completion of Nord Stream 2 and that it threatens Ukraine. They argue that Russia with the completion isn’t dependent on the goodwill of Ukraine for gas transit anymore, which could make Russia more aggressive towards its neighbor, with whom it has been fighting since 2014 in Donbas. 

Problems with EU laws

Nord Stream 2 is complete but the political problems aren’t over. According to Interfax-Ukraine quoting Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Gazprom might be forced the sell off the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, if it is to comply with the European Union’s regulations.

“Nord Stream 2 had already tentatively submitted a request to the Federal Network Agency in June for “Certification as an independent transport operator. It is intended to comply with the separation order by promptly separating the operation of the pipeline from the parent company in terms of accounting as well.” Interfax-Ukraine quoted Frankfurte Allgemeine.

Also, a German court ruling against the Nord Stream 2 project on a matter of monopoly regulations says that Gazprom would only be able to use half the capacity of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. As of now, the Russian energy giant Gazprom is the only ones who send gas through the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. By the looks of it, they will not be allowed to fully utilize this, but the court decision is not necessarily final and might be overturned.

Ukraine is hoping to continue to fight Nord Stream 2 through the EU courts. 

“And now our main battlefield will be just around applying these European rules to all pipelines that combine Russia and Europe,” Yuriy Vitrenko, the head of Ukrainian Naftogaz posted on Facebook.

Nord Stream 2 encounters more EU-law problems