The US and Ukraine are discussing moves to block Russia’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline to Germany.
Andriy Kobolyev, CEO of the Ukrainian gas firm Naftogaz, has been in Washington to lobby for action to block Gazprom’s pipeline. Among other figures, he met far-right Texas senator Ted Cruz, a leading opponent of Nord Stream 2.
The 1,200km, US$11.7-billion pipeline is due to be completed this year, following the route of the existing Nord Stream 1, doubling the annual capacity to 110 billion cubic metres. Germany says it will fill a gap left by the phasing out its nuclear power stations, and the projected fall in supply from Norway and the Netherlands, as their reserves are depleted.
Texas is the largest producer of natural gas in the US, which Washington is trying to sell to Europe in the form of LNG (liquefied natural gas), natural gas super-chilled to be transported in liquid form.
Around 98 per cent of Germany’s oil and 92 per cent of its gas is imported.
The US Congress and the Ukrainian government – which is due to lose income from duties charged on Russian gas passing through its Soviet-era network of pipelines – are planning further action.
The current pipeline through Ukraine provides the war-torn country with an annual income worth 2 per cent of its GDP.
“There is a very elegant and efficient way available to the US government to make sure this pipeline will never happen and we believe that this should be done,” Kobolyev said.
“If the US really wants this pipeline not to happen, there is a way to achieve that outcome. That is why we are [in Washington]”, he added.
In December, Congress passed the National Defence Authorisation Act, which imposed sanctions on firms laying pipelines on the Vyborg to Lubmin project.
Russia and Ukraine signed a five-year gas deal just days after the US sanctions went into force, with analysts saying that Kiev’s hand was strengthened by the legislation.
Critics of Nord Stream 2 argue that Russia’s 40-per-cent share of European gas supplies is dangerously high.
The Russian state-run gas giant, Gazprom, is looking to use its own pipe-laying ship to complete the remaining 160km of Nord Stream 2 under the Baltic Sea.
The Russian ships that could be used to finish the pipeline are the Akademik Chersky and Fortuna. However, Gazprom – the world’s largest natural-gas exporter – would need permission from Denmark to deploy its ships near the Danish island of Bornholm.
Copenhagen will not allow ships to use anchors near the island because it says unexploded bombs from the Second World War litter the seabed.
The Chersky, which is travelling from Russia’s Pacific coast, has “dynamic positioning”, while the Fortuna, which is already in the Baltic, does not.
However, the Chersky requires adaptation to enable it to lay pipes, which could reportedly take two or more months.
Another approach would be to attach a tugboat with dynamic positioning to the Fortuna, according to the Russian media.
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