A setback for Nord Stream 2 risks keeping all of Europe in suspense just as the cold approaches, and the need for gas increases. The German regulator has effectively suspended the approval process for the controversial gas pipeline between Russia and Germany, calling into question a legal obstacle. The Bundesnetzagentur decision could delay the long-awaited green light, as certification is one of the last essential steps before the pipeline can be put into service to allow Russian gas to flow into the European network.
After the announcement, the price of gas on the market increased by 12%, at a time when Europe is already experiencing a surge in energy prices. Speaking to the Financial Times, Jeremy Weir, the managing director of Trafigura, one of the largest companies in the world that trades raw materials, feared for Europe the risk of an energy blackout next winter, should low temperatures persist. This is because natural gas in the region is still insufficient. “We don’t have enough gas at the moment and we’re not even storing for the winter,” he said. “So there is a real concern that if we have a cold winter, we could have blackouts in Europe.”
Returning to Nord Stream 2, the certification process remains suspended until the operator of Nord Stream 2, based in Zug, Switzerland, has completed the transfer of “key assets and human resources” to a subsidiary created in Germany for the German part of the pipeline. In practice, the approval of Nord Stream 2 will be possible “only if the operator organizes itself in a legal form according to German law”, wrote the German authority.
The latter will then have four months to give the green light to the project, the construction of which has been completed and filling has already begun on the Russian side.
It will then have to submit this authorization to the European Commission for its opinion. In other words, the start of operation of the pipeline could be delayed at this point. A decision that sounds like a response to the Kremlin which had already asked in September that Nord Stream 2 be put into operation “as soon as possible” to start supplying it with gas.
The numbers of the pipeline
Nord Stream 2 has a capacity of 55 billion cubic meters per year and started filling up in October: it is used to transport natural gas – that is methane, the one that is used every day in the kitchen – from Russia to Germany under the sea. Baltic, to then be connected to the distribution network of the European Union.
Nord Stream 2 is currently the longest pipeline in the world (1,230 kilometers) and is flanked by the 1,224 kilometer-long Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline, which follows the same route and was inaugurated in 2012. Before the construction of the two Nord Stream pipelines, Russian gas passed by land, through the territories of Ukraine and Belarus. With the completion of Nord Stream 2, gas will effectively bypass Eastern European countries and according to critics, in this way, the Kremlin could implement specific political pressures with the threat of interrupting gas supplies to individual countries of the east, but at the same time keeping the flow towards Western Europe.
After months of long negotiations, an agreement was reached – also endorsed by the Biden administration – according to which in the event that Russia uses gas supplies as a political lever to put pressure on Eastern European countries, Berlin would then have the power to impose sanctions on Moscow. But Putin has always denied this will, even if this was not enough to allay concerns.
The same Ukrainian company Naftogaz, at the announcement of the German regulator, said it was satisfied because it has always been opposed to the gas pipeline and instead agrees with the position according to which the certification cannot be applied only to the oil pipeline in Germany, but to the entire pipeline from the territory of the Russian Federation to the territory of Germany. In reality, Kiev fears losing its centrality and also its source of income from the taxes applied to the passage of Russian gas.
Meanwhile, although President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian gas giant Gazprom to start filling storage facilities last month, fueling hopes that exports to Europe will increase, there has been a limited increase in supplies from Russia so far. in the last week. For example, yesterday was the news that Gazprom has booked a smaller capacity of the pipelines for December. Moscow denies that it has limited exports to Europe, but is accused of trying to put pressure on Germany to speed up the authorization of the controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. With this stop, now, all scenarios are open.