Nord Stream Gas Pipeline

From Global Energy Monitor
This article is part of the Global Fossil Infrastructure Tracker, a project of Global Energy Monitor.

Nord Stream Gas Pipeline (Северный Поток), also called the Northern European Gas Pipeline (Северо-Европейский газопровод) is an operating natural gas pipeline.[1]


The pipeline runs from Vyborg, Russia through the Baltic Sea to Greifswald, Germany.[2] [3]

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Project Details

  • Operator: Nord Stream AG
  • Parent Company: Gazprom 51%, Wintershall 15.5%, PEG Infrastruktur AG (Uniper) 15.5%, Gasunie 9%, Engie 9%
  • Current capacity: 55 billion cubic meters per year
  • Length: 759 miles / 1,222 kilometers
  • Status: Operating
  • Start Year: 2011


Nord Stream is an offshore natural gas pipeline from Vyborg in the Russian Federation to Greifswald in Germany that is owned and operated by Nord Stream AG. The project includes two parallel lines. The first line was laid by May 2011 and was inaugurated on 8 November 2011.[4][5] The second line was laid in 2011–2012 and was inaugurated on 8 October 2012. At 1,222 km (759 mi) in length, it is the longest subsea pipeline in the world, surpassing the Langeled pipeline.[6][7] It has an annual capacity of 55 billion cubic meters (1.9 trillion cubic feet), but its capacity is planned to be doubled to 110 billion cubic meters (3.9 trillion cubic feet by 2019, by laying two additional lines.[8] Due to EU restrictions on Gazprom, only 22.5 billion cubic meters (790 billion cubic feet) of its capacity is actually used.[9] The name occasionally has a wider meaning, including the feeding onshore pipeline in the Russian Federation, and further connections in Western Europe.


The original pipeline project started in 1997 when Gazprom and the Finnish company Neste (which in 1998 merged with Imatran Voima to form Fortum, and in 2004 separated again to Fortum and Neste Oil) formed the joint company North Transgas Oy for construction and operation of a gas pipeline from Russia to Northern Germany across the Baltic Sea.[10] North Transgas cooperated with the German gas company Ruhrgas (which later became part of E.ON). A route survey in the Exclusive Economic Zones of Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Germany, and a feasibility study of the pipeline was conducted in 1998. Several routes were considered including routes with onshore segments through Finland and Sweden.[11]

On 24 April 2001, Gazprom, Fortum, Ruhrgas and Wintershall adopted a statement regarding a joint feasibility study for construction of the pipeline.[12] On 18 November 2002, the Management Committee of Gazprom approved a schedule of project implementation. In May 2005, Fortum withdrew from the project and sold its stake in North Transgas to Gazprom. As a result, Gazprom became the only shareholder of North Transgas Oy.[10][13]

On 8 September 2005, Gazprom, BASF and E.ON signed a basic agreement on the construction of a North European Gas Pipeline. On 30 November 2005, the North European Gas Pipeline Company (later renamed Nord Stream AG) was incorporated in Zug, Switzerland. On 9 December 2005, Gazprom started construction of the Russian onshore feeding pipeline. On 4 October 2006, the pipeline and the operating company were officially renamed Nord Stream AG.[14] After establishment of Nord Stream AG, all information related to the pipeline project, including results of the seabed survey of 1998, were transferred from North Transgas to the new company, and on 2 November 2006, North Transgas was officially dissolved.[15]

The environmental impact assessment started on 16 November 2006 with notification sent to Russia, Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Germany, as parties of origin (the countries whose exclusive economic zones and/or territorial waters the pipeline is planned to pass through), as well as to Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia as affected parties.[16] The final report on transboundary environmental impact assessment was delivered on 9 March 2009.[17]

On 19 March 2007, Nord Stream AG contracted with Italian company Snamprogetti, a subsidiary of Saipem, for design engineering of the pipeline.[18] A letter of intent for construction was signed with Saipem on 17 September 2007 and the contract was concluded on 24 June 2008.[19][20] On 25 September 2007, the pipe supply contracts were awarded to the pipe producers Salzgitter AG and OMK, and on 18 February 2008, the concrete weight coating and logistics services agreement was awarded to EUPEC PipeCoatings S.A.[21][22] The supply contracts for the second line were awarded to OMK, Europipe and Sumitomo Heavy Industries on 22 January 2010.[23] On 30 December 2008 Rolls-Royce plc was awarded a contract to supply gas turbines driving centrifugal compressors and on 8 January 2009, Royal Boskalis Westminster and Danish Dredging Contractor Rohde Nielsen A/S. were awarded a joint venture seabed dredging contract.[24][25]

The agreement to make Gasunie the consortium's fourth partner was signed on 6 November 2007.[26] On 10 June 2008, Gasunie was included in the register of shareholders.[27] On 1 March 2010, French energy company GDF Suez signed with Gazprom a memorandum of understanding to acquire 9% stake in the project.[28] The transaction was closed in July 2010.[29]

In August 2008, Nord Stream AG hired former Finnish prime minister Paavo Lipponen as a consultant to help speed up the application process in Finland and to serve as a link between Nord Stream and Finnish authorities.[30]

On 21 December 2007, Nord Stream AG submitted application documents to the Swedish government for pipeline construction in the Swedish Exclusive Economic Zone.[31] On 12 February 2008, the Swedish government rejected the consortium's application which it had found incomplete.[32][33] A new application was filed later. On 20 October 2009, Nord Stream received a construction permit to build the pipeline in Danish waters.[34] On 5 November 2009, the Swedish and Finnish authorities gave a permit to lay the pipeline in their exclusive economic zones.[35] On 22 February 2010, the Regional State Administrative Agency for Southern Finland issued the final environmental permit allowing construction of the Finnish section of the pipeline.[36][37]

On 15 January 2010 construction of the Portovaya compressor station in Vyborg near the Gulf of Finland began.[38] [39] The first pipe of the pipeline was laid on 6 April 2010 in the Swedish exclusive economic zone by the Castoro Sei vessel. In addition to Castoro Sei, also Castoro 10 and Solitaire were contracted for pipe-laying works.[40] Construction of the pipeline was officially launched on 9 April 2010 at Portovaya Bay.[41]

The laying of the first line was completed on 4 May 2011 (the last pipe put in place), while all underwater works on the first line were completed on 21 June 2011.[7][42] In August 2011, Nord Stream was connected with the OPAL pipeline.[43] Gas was first pumped into the first line on 6 September 2011.[44]

The pipeline was officially inaugurated by the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and French Prime Minister François Fillon on 8 November 2011 at the ceremony held in Lubmin.[4][5][45] Initially, the pipeline was able to deliver 27.5 billion cubic meters (970 billion cubic feet) of gas annually, but this capacity was doubled once the second pipeline was finished.[46] Construction of the second line was completed in August 2012 and it was inaugurated on 8 October 2012.[47][48][49]

Technical features

Russian onshore pipeline

Construction of the feeding pipeline in Russia (Gryazovets–Vyborg gas pipeline) began on 9 December 2005 in the town of Babayevo in Vologda Oblast. It was completed in 2010. This pipeline is operated solely by Gazprom.[50] It is a part of the integrated gas transport network of Russia connecting the existing grid in Gryazovets with the coastal compressor station at Vyborg.[51] The length of this pipeline is 917 km (576 mi), the diameter of the pipe is 1420 mm (56 in), and working pressure is 100 atm (10 MPa), which is secured by six compressor stations. The Gryazovets-Vyborg pipeline, parallel to the branch of the Northern Lights pipeline, also supplies gas to the Northwestern Federal Districtof Russia (Saint Petersburg and Leningrad Oblast).[50] A branch pipeline in Karelia will connect this feeding pipeline with Finland.[52]

Baltic Sea offshore pipeline

The Nord Stream offshore pipeline is ordered and operated by Nord Stream AG.[16][26] It runs from Vyborg compressor station at Portovaya Bay along the bottom of the Baltic Sea to Greifswald in Germany. The length of the subsea pipeline is 1,222 km (759 mi), of which 1.5 km (.93 mi) is in Russian inland, 121.8 km (65.8 nmi) in Russian territorial waters, 1.4 km (.8 nmi) in the Russian Exclusive Economic Zone, 375.3 km (202.6 nmi) in the Finnish economic zone, 506.4 km (273.4 nmi) in the Swedish economic zone, 87.7 km (47.4 nmi) in Danish territorial waters, 49.9 km (26.9 nmi) in the Danish economic zone, 31.2 km (19.3 nmi) in the German economic zone, 49.9 km (26.9 nmi) in German territorial waters and .5 km (.31 mi) on land in Germany.[53] The pipeline has two parallel lines, each with capacity of 27.5 billion cubic meters (970 billion cubic feet) of natural gas per year. Pipes have a diameter of 1220 mm (48 in), a wall thickness of 38 mm (1.5 in) and a working pressure of 220 bars (22 MPa).[16]

Nord Stream AG is studying the viability of building the third and fourth lines.[54]

Western European pipelines

The Western European part of the project includes two transmission pipelines in Germany. The southern pipeline (OPAL pipeline) runs from Greifswald to Olbernhau near the German-Czech border. It connects Nord Stream with JAGAL (connected to the Yamal-Europe pipeline), and STEGAL (connected to the Russian gas transport route via the Czech and Slovak republics) transmission pipelines. The Gazelle pipeline, put into operation in January 2013,[55] links the OPAL pipeline with the south German gas network.

The western pipeline (NEL pipeline) runs from Greifswald to Achim, where it is connected with the Rehden-Hamburg gas pipeline.[56] Together with the MIDAL pipeline it creates the Greifswald–Bunde, Germany connection. Further gas delivery to the United Kingdom are made through the connection between Bunde and Den Helder, and from there through the offshore interconnector Balgzand–Bacton, Norfolk (BBL Pipeline).

Gazprom has also bought an abandoned mine (Hinrichshagen Structure) in Waren (Müritz), which is planned to convert into the largest underground gas storage in Europe with capacity of 5 billion cubic meters (180 billion cubic feet).[57][58]

Supply sources

The main source of natural gas for the Nord Stream pipeline is Yuzhno-Russkoye field, which is located in the Krasnoselkupsky District, Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug, Tyumen Oblast.[59][60][61] Nord Stream is also fed from fields in Yamal Peninsula, Ob-Taz bay. Gazprom has also indicated that the majority of gas produced at the Shtokman field would be sold to Europe via the Nord Stream pipeline. For this purpose, the pipeline from the Shtokman field via Kola peninsula to Volkhov or Vyborg in the Leningrad Oblast has to be built.[62]

Costs and financing

According to Gazprom, the costs of the onshore pipelines in Russia and Germany are around €6 billion.[63] The offshore section of the project is expected to cost €8.8 billion.[64] 30% of the financing was raised through equity provided by shareholders in proportion to their stakes in the project, while 70% came from external financing by banks.[65]

There are two tranches.[66][67] The first tranche for €3.9 billion includes a €3.1 billion, 16-year facility covered by export credit agencies and a €800 million, 10-year uncovered commercial loan to be serviced by earnings from the transportation contracts. A €1.6 billion loan is covered by French credit insurance company Euler Hermes, a €1 billion loan by the German United Loan Guarantee Programme UFK, and a €500 million loan by Italian Export Credit Agency SACE SpA. Loans are to be provided by 26 commercial banks. Crédit Agricole is a documentation bank and bank facility agent. Société Générale is an intercreditor agent, Sace a facility agent, security trustee and model bank. Commerzbank is the Hermes facility agent, UniCredit is the UFK facility agent, Deutsche Bank is account bank and Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation is a technical and environmental bank.[65][66] The financial advisers were Société Générale, Royal Bank of Scotland (ABN Amro), Dresdner Kleinwort (Commerzbank), and Unicredit.[68][69] The legal adviser to Nord Stream was White & Case and the legal adviser for the lenders was Clifford Chance.[66]


The environmental impact assessment was carried out by Rambøll and Environmental Resource Management. The route and seabed surveys were conducted by Marin Mätteknik, IfAÖ, PeterGaz and DOF Subsea.[70][71]

Preliminary engineering was done by Intec Engineering.[72] The design engineering of the subsea pipeline was done by Snamprogetti (now part of Saipem) and the pipeline was constructed by Saipem.[18][20] Saipem gave sub-contract to Allseas for laying more than 1/4 of both the pipelines. The seabed was prepared for the laying of the pipeline by a joint venture of Royal Boskalis Westminster and Tideway.[25] The pipes were provided by EUROPIPE, OMK, and Sumitomo.[21][23] Concrete weight coating and logistics services were provided by EUPEC PipeCoatings S.A. For the concrete weight coating new coating plants were constructed in Mukran (Germany) and Kotka (Finland).[22] Rolls-Royce plc supplied eight industrial aeroderivative gas turbines driving centrifugal compressors for front-end gas boosting at the Vyborg (Portovaya) gas compressor station.[24] Dresser Industries supplied DATUM compressors and Siirtec Nigi SPA provided a gas treatment unit for the Portovaya station.[73][74]

For the construction period, Nord Stream AG created a logistics center in Gotland. Other interim stock yards are located in Mukran, in Kotka, in Hanko (Finland) and in Karlskrona (Sweden).[22]

Project company

The Nord Stream offshore pipeline is operated by the special purpose company Nord Stream AG. Nord Stream AG was incorporated in Zug, Switzerland on 30 November 2005. Shareholders of the company are the Russian gas company Gazprom (51% of shares), German companies Wintershall and PEG Infrastruktur AG (Uniper) (both 15.5%), the Dutch gas company Gasunie (9%), and the French gas company Engie (9%).[16][26] The Managing Director of Nord Stream AG is Matthias Warnig and the chairman of the shareholders' committee is German ex-chancellor Gerhard Schröder.

Transportation contracts

On 13 October 2005 Gazprom signed a contract with German gas company Wingas, a joint venture of Gazprom and Wintershall (subsidiary of BASF), to supply 9 billion cubic meters (320 billion cubic feet) of natural gas per year for 25 years.[75] On 16 June 2006 Gazprom and Danish DONG Energy signed a 20-year contract for delivery of 1 billion cubic meters (35 billion cubic feet) Russian gas per year to Denmark, while DONG Energy will supply 600 million cubic meters (21 billion cubic feet) of natural gas per year to Gazprom's subsidiary, Gazprom Marketing and Trading, in the United Kingdom.[76] On 1 October 2009 the companies signed a contract to double the delivery to Denmark.[77]

On 29 August 2006 Gazprom and E.ON Ruhrgas signed an agreement to extend current contracts on natural gas supplies and have signed a contract for an additional 4 billion cubic meters (140 billion cubic feet) per year through the Nord Stream pipeline.[78] On 19 December 2006, Gazprom and Gaz de France (now GDF Suez) agreed to an additional 2.5 billion cubic meters of gas (88 billion cubic feet) through the Nord Stream.[79]

Expansion: Nord Stream 2

In 2011, Nord Stream AG started evaluation of an expansion project which would include two additional lines (later named Nord Stream 2 Gas Pipeline) to increase the overall annual capacity up to 110 billion cubic meters per year (3.9 trillion cubic feet per year). In August 2012, Nord Stream AG applied to the Finnish and Estonian governments for route studies in their underwater exclusive economic zones for the third and fourth lines.[80] The idea of routing the additional pipelines to the United Kingdom was considered but abandoned.[81][82] In January 2015, it was announced that the expansion project was put on hold since the existing lines were running at only half capacity due to EU restrictions on Gazprom.[83]

In June 2015, an agreement to build two additional lines was signed between Gazprom, Royal Dutch Shell, E.ON, OMV, and Engie.[84] As the creation of a joint venture was blocked by Poland, on 24 April 2017, Uniper, Wintershall, Engie, OMV and Royal Dutch Shell signed a financing agreement with Nord Stream 2 AG, a subsidiary of Gazprom responsible for the development of the Nord Stream 2 project. According to the agreement, each of five companies will provide €950 million, of which €285 million should be paid in 2017. The loan from the five companies will cover 50% of the project costs of €9.5 billion. The rest would be financed by Gazprom who remains the sole shareholder of Nord Stream 2 AG.[85] Although the pipeline has received no formal approvals from Denmark, Sweden and Finland, it is scheduled to become operational in 2019–2020.[85][86]

The route of additional lines would mainly follow the route of existing lines, except in the Russian onshore and offshore sections.[81][87] In Russia, 866 km (538 mi) of new pipeline and three compressor stations would be built, and five existing compressor stations would be expanded for feeding Nord Stream 2. Nord Stream 2 will start at the Slavyanskaya compressor station near Ust-Luga port, located 2.8 km (1.7 mi) southeast of the village of Bolshoye Kuzyomkino (Narvusi) in the Kingiseppsky District of the Leningrad Oblast, in the historical Ingria close to the Estonian border. Its landfall would be at the Kurgalsky Peninsula on the shore of Narva Bay.[87]

The president of the European Council Donald Tusk has said that Nord Stream 2 is not in the EU's interests.[88] Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán have questioned the different treatment of Nord Stream II and South Stream projects.[88][89] The project is considered to violate the long-term declared strategy of the EU to diversify its gas supplies.[90] A letter, signed by the leaders of nine EU countries, has been sent to the EC in March 2016, warning that the Nord Stream 2 project contradicts the European energy policy requirements that suppliers to the EU should not control the energy transmission assets, and that access to the energy infrastructure must be secured for non-consortium companies.[91][92] A letter by American lawmakers John McCain and Marco Rubio to the EU also criticized the project in July 2016.[93] Isabelle Kocher, chief executive officer of Engie, criticised American sanctions targeting the projects, and said they were an attempt to promote American gas in Europe.[94] Although construction has started on Nord Stream 2, the government of Denmark wants to have its foreign ministry prevent it being routed through Danish waters, and a bill is proposed to go through Parliament in October 2017, giving the foreign ministry the authority to do so. Supporters of the pipeline, including Germany, believe that unlawful deference has been made to US wishes of the project not proceeding.[95]

In January 2018, United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that the U.S. and Poland "oppose" the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. They see it as undermining Europe's overall energy security and stability.[96] On January 31, 2018, Germany granted Nord Stream 2 a permit for construction and operation in German waters and landfall areas near Lubmin. [97]


The pipeline project was criticized by some countries and environmental organizations (such as the World Wide Fund for Nature).[98][99][100][101][102] At the same time, the European Commissioner for Energy confirmed that the EU supports the project "as an additional source of gas supplies from Russia".[103]

Political aspects

Opponents have seen the pipeline as a move by Russia to bypass traditional transit countries (currently Ukraine, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Belarus and Poland).[104] Some transit countries are concerned that a long-term plan of the Kremlin is to attempt to exert political influence on them by threatening their gas supply without affecting supplies to Western Europe.[105][106] These fears are strengthened by the fact that Russia has refused to ratify the Energy Charter Treaty. Critics of Nord Stream say that Europe could become dangerously dependent on Russian natural gas, particularly since Russia could face problems meeting a surge in domestic as well as foreign demand.[107][108][109] Following several Russia–Ukraine gas disputes, as well as foreign policy towards Eastern Europe, it has been noted that the gas supplies by Russia can be used as a political tool.[110] A Swedish Defence Research Agency study, finished March 2007, counted over 55 incidents since 1991, most with "both political and economic underpinnings".[108][109] In April 2006 Radosław Sikorski, then Poland's defense minister, compared the project to the infamous 1939 Nazi-Soviet Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact. [111] In his book The New Cold War: Putin's Russia and the Threat to the West, published 2008, Edward Lucas stated that "though Nord Stream's backers insist that the project is business pure and simple, this would be easier to believe if it were more transparent."[108] In the report published by the Fridtjof Nansen Institute in 2008, Norwegian researcher Bendik Solum Whist noted that Nord Stream AG was incorporated in Switzerland, "whose strict banking secrecy laws makes the project less transparent than it would have been if based within the EU".[108] Additionally, the Russian energy sector "in general lacks transparency" and Gazprom "is no exception".[108]

The Russian response has been that the pipeline increases Europe's energy security, and that the criticism is caused by bitterness about the loss of significant transit revenues, as well as the loss of political influence that stems from the transit countries' ability to hold Russian gas supplies to Western Europe hostage to their local political agendas.[112] It would reduce Russia's dependence on the transit countries as for the first time it would link Russia directly to Western Europe.[107] According to Gazprom, the direct connection to Germany would decrease risks in the gas transit zones, including the political risk of cutting off Russian gas exports to Western Europe.[113]

An anti-trust investigation against Gazprom started in 2011 revealed a number of "abusive practices" the company applied against various recipients in EU and Nord Stream 2 was criticized from this angle as strengthening Gazprom's position in EU even more and European Commission officials expressed the view that "Nord Stream 2 does not enhance EU energy security".[114]

Security and military aspects

Swedish military experts and several politicians, including former Minister for Defence Mikael Odenberg, have stated that the pipeline can cause a security policy problem for Sweden.[115] According to Odenberg, the pipeline increases the Russian naval presence in the Swedish economic zone and the Russians can use this for military intelligence should they want to.[116] Finnish military scholar Alpo Juntunen has said that even though the political discussion over Nord Stream in Finland concentrates on the various ecological aspects, there are clearly military implications to the pipeline that are not discussed openly in Finland.[117] More political concerns were raised when Vladimir Putin stated that the ecological safety of the pipeline project will be ensured by using the Baltic Fleet of the Russian Navy.[118] German weekly Stern has reported that the fibre optic cable and repeater stations along the pipeline could theoretically also be used for espionage. Nord Stream AG asserted that a fibre-optic control cable was neither necessary nor technically planned.[119]

Deputy Chairman of the Board of Executive Directors of Gazprom Alexander Medvedev has dismissed these concerns, stating that "some objections are put forward that are laughable—political, military or linked to spying. That is really surprising because in the modern world ... it is laughable to say a gas pipeline is a weapon in a spy war."[120]

German Bundeswehr asked Nord Stream to change the planned route because the pipeline is laid close to a sea testing ground near Rügen, which is actively used for naval exercises.[121]

Economic aspects

Russian and German officials have claimed that the pipeline leads to economic savings due to the elimination of transit fees (as transit countries would be bypassed), and a higher operating pressure of the offshore pipeline which leads to lower operating costs (by eliminating the necessity for expensive midway compressor stations).[122] According to Ukrtransgaz, the Ukrainian gas transportation system operator, Ukraine alone will lose natural gas transit revenues up to $720 million per year.[123] Gazprom has stated that it will divert 20 billion cubic meters of natural gas transported through Ukraine to Nord Stream.[124]

Opponents say that the maintenance costs of a submarine pipeline are higher than for an overland route. In 1998, former Gazprom chairman Rem Vyakhirev claimed that the project was economically unfeasible.[125]

As the Nord Stream pipeline crosses the waterway to Polish ports in Szczecin and Świnoujście, there were concerns that it will reduce the depth of the waterway leading to the ports.[126][127][128] However, Polish prime minister Donald Tusk and several experts have confirmed that the Nord Stream pipeline does not block the development plans of Świnoujście and Szczecin ports.[128][129]

Environmental aspects

Environmentalists and several governments expressed concern that construction on the ocean floor would disturb and dislodge World War II-era materials including mines, chemical waste, chemical munitions and other items dumped in the Baltic Sea in the past decades, and thereby toxic substances could surface from the seabed damaging the Baltic's particularly sensitive ecosystem.[130][131][132][133] Swedish Environment Minister Andreas Carlgren demanded that the environmental analysis should include alternative ways of taking the pipeline across the Baltic, as the pipeline is projected to be passing through areas considered environmentally problematic and risky.[134] Sweden's three opposition parties called for an examination of the possibility of rerouting the pipeline onto dry land.[133] Finnish environmental groups campaigned to consider the more southern route, claiming that the sea bed is flatter and so construction would be more straightforward, and therefore potentially less disruptive to waste, including dioxins and dioxin-like compounds, littered on the sea bed.[135] Latvian president Valdis Zatlers said that Nord Stream was environmentally hazardous as, unlike the North Sea, there is no such water circulation in the Baltic Sea.[136] Ene Ergma, Speaker of the Riigikogu (Parliament of Estonia), warned that the pipeline work rips a canal in the seabed which will demand leveling the sand that lies along the way, atomizing volcanic formations and disposing of fill along the bottom of the sea, altering sea currents.[137]

The impact on bird and marine life in the Baltic Sea is also a concern, as the Baltic sea is recognized by the International Maritime Organization as a particularly sensitive sea area. The World Wide Fund for Nature requested that countries party to the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission (HELCOM) safeguard the Baltic marine habitats, which could be altered by the implementation of the Nord Stream project.[101] Its Finnish branch said it might file a court case against Nord Stream AG if the company did not properly assess a potential alternative route on the southern side of Hogland. According to Nord Stream AG, this was not a suitable route for the pipeline because of the planned conservation area near Hogland, subsea cables, and a main shipping route.[100] Russian environmental organizations warned that the ecosystem in the Eastern part of the Gulf of Finland is the most vulnerable part of the Baltic Sea and assumed damage to the island territory of the planned Ingermanland nature preserve as a result of laying the pipeline.[137] Swedish environmental groups are concerned that the pipeline is planned to pass too closely to the border of the marine reserve near Gotland.[138] Also Greenpeace is concerned that the pipeline would pass through several sites designated marine conservation areas.[139]

In April 2007, the Young Conservative League (YCL) of Lithuania started an online petition entitled "Protect the Baltic Sea While It’s Still Not Too Late!", translated into all state languages of the countries of the Baltic region.[140] On 29 January 2008 the Petitions Committee of the European Parliament organized a public hearing on a petition introduced by the leader of YCL – Radvile Morkunaite. On 8 July 2008, the European Parliament endorsed by 542 votes to 60 a non-binding report calling on the European Commission to evaluate the additional impact on the Baltic Sea caused by the Nord Stream project.[141] The Riigikogu made a declaration on 27 October 2009, expressing "concern over the possible environmental impacts of the gas line" and emphasizing that international conventions have deemed "the Baltic Sea in an especially vulnerable environmental status".[102]

Russian officials described these concerns as far-fetched and politically motivated by opponents of the project. They argued that during the construction the seabed will be cleaned, rather than endangered. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has claimed that Russia fully respects the desire to provide for the 100% environmental sustainability of the project and that Russia is fully supportive of such an approach, and that all environmental concerns would be addressed in the process of environmental impact assessment.[142]

Concerns were raised that Nord Stream AG planned on rinsing out the pipeline with 2.3 billion liters of a solution containing glutaraldehyde, pumped afterward into the Baltic Sea. Nord Stream AG responded that glutaraldehyde would not be used, and even had the chemical been used, the effects would have been brief and localized due to the speed with which the chemical breaks down once it comes in contact with water.[143]

Another area of concern was that the Baltic Sea and particularly the Gulf of Finland were heavily mined during World War I and II, with many mines still in the sea.[139] According to Marin Mätteknik around 85,000 mines were laid during the First and Second World Wars, of which only half have been recovered. A lot of munitions have also been dumped in this sea.[144] Critics of the pipeline voiced fears that the pipeline would disturb ammunition dumps. In November 2008 it was reported that the pipeline will run through old sea mine defense lines and that the Gulf of Finland is considered one of the most heavily mined sea areas in the world.[145] Sunken mines, which have been found on the pipeline route, lay primarily in international waters at a depth of more than 70 m (230 ft). Nord Stream AG detonated the mines underwater.[145]

Ethical issues

The former Chancellor of Germany, Gerhard Schröder, and the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, were strong advocates of the pipeline project during the negotiation phase. International media alluded to a past relationship between the Managing Director of Nord Stream AG, Matthias Warnig, himself a former Stasi officer, and Vladimir Putin when he was a KGB agent in East Germany.[146][147][148][149] These allegations were denied by Matthias Warning, who said that he had met Vladimir Putin for the first time in his life in 1991, when Putin was the head of the Committee for External Relations of the Saint Petersburg Mayor's Office.[149][150]

The agreement to build the pipeline was signed ten days before the 2005 German parliamentary election. On 24 October 2005, a few weeks before Schröder had stepped down as Chancellor, the German government guaranteed to cover €1 billion of the Nord Stream project cost, should Gazprom default on a loan. However, this guarantee expired at the end of 2006 without ever having been needed.[151] Soon after leaving the post of Chancellor of Germany, Gerhard Schröder agreed to head the shareholders' committee of Nord Stream AG. This has been widely described by German and international media as a conflict of interest,[152][153][154] the implication being that the pipeline project may have been pushed through for personal gain rather than for improving gas supplies to Germany. Information about the German government's guarantee was requested by the European Commission. No formal charges have been filed against any party despite years of exhaustive investigations.[151]

In February 2009, the Swedish prosecutor's office started an investigation based on suspicions of bribery and corruption after a college on the island of Gotland received a donation from Nord Stream. The 5 million Swedish kronor (US$574,000) donation was directed to a professor at Gotland University College who had previously warned that the Nord Stream pipeline would come too close to a sensitive bird zone.[155] The consortium has hired several former high-ranking officials, such as Ulrica Schenström, former undersecretary at the Swedish Prime Minister's office, and Dan Svanell, former press secretary for several politicians in the Swedish Social Democratic Party.[156] In addition, the former Prime Minister of Finland, Paavo Lipponen, had worked for Nord Stream as an adviser since 2008.[157]

Land-based alternatives

On 11 January 2007, the Ministry of Trade and Industry of Finland made a statement on the environmental impact assessment programme of the Russia-Germany natural gas pipeline, in which it mentioned that alternative routes via the Baltic states, Kaliningrad and/or Poland might theoretically be shorter than the route across the Baltic Sea, would be easier to flexibly increase the capacity of the pipeline, and might have better financial results.[158] There were also calls from Sweden to consider rerouting the pipeline onto dry land.[133] Poland had proposed the construction of a second line of the Yamal–Europe pipeline, as well as the Amber pipeline through the Baltic states and Poland as land-based alternatives to the offshore pipeline. The Amber project foresees laying a natural gas pipeline across the Tver Oblast, Novgorod and Pskov oblasts in Russia and then through Latvia and Lithuania to Poland, where it would be reconnected to the Yamal–Europe pipeline.[11] Latvia has proposed using its underground gas storage facilities if the onshore route were to be used.[136] Proponents have claimed that the Amber pipeline would cost half as much as an underwater pipeline, would be shorter, and would have less environmental impact.[159] Critics of this proposal say that in this case it would be more expensive for the suppliers over the long-term because the main aim of the project is to reduce transit costs.[160] Nord Stream AG has responded that the Baltic Sea would be the only route for the pipeline and it will not consider an overland alternative.[161]

World War II graves

A former member of the European Parliament from Estonia, Andres Tarand has raised the issue that the Nord Stream pipeline could disturb World War II graves dating from naval battles in 1941. A Nord Stream spokesman has stated that only one sunken ship is in the vicinity of the planned pipeline and added that it would not be disturbed.[162] However, on 16 July 2008 it was announced that one of DOF Subsea's seismic vessels had discovered during a survey for the planned Nord Stream pipeline, in Finland's exclusive economic zone in the Gulf of Finland, the wreck of a submarine with Soviet markings, believed to have sunk during World War II.[70]

In addition to the wreck of the Soviet submarine, there are sunken ships on the route of Nord Stream in the Bay of Greifswald and in the Gulf of Finland. The ship in the Bay of Greifswald is one of 20 sunk in 1715 by the Swedish navy to create a physical barrier across the shallow entrance to the Bay of Greifswald coastal lagoon.[163] Russian archaeologists claimed that the ship in the Gulf of Finland "was probably built in 1710 and sank during a raid aimed at conquering Finland" in 1713 during Peter the Great's reign.[164]

Articles and resources


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