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10th Dec 2022

US forces Norwegian firm to abandon Nord Stream 2

  • Work on the final segment in Danish waters due to start on 15 January (Photo: nordstream2.com)

A Norwegian firm that was meant to have provided technical and safety certificates for Russia's gas pipeline to Germany has abandoned the project due to US sanctions.

"DNV GL will cease all verification activities for the Nord Stream 2 pipeline system in line with sanctions and while sanctions are in place," it said in a statement sent to EUobserver on Monday (4 January).

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"We are implementing a plan to wind down our verification support to the project. As the situation currently stands, DNV GL cannot issue a certificate upon the completion of the pipeline," it added.

A spokesman for the firm said the decision came following new US legislation passed on Friday called the Protecting Europe's Energy Security Clarification Act.

He declined to comment on how DNV GL's decision might impact the pipeline.

"Legal requirements for certification and verification vary depending on national jurisdictions," he said.

The Norwegian company had been working on Nord Stream 2 for five years prior to the US crackdown, he noted, indicating that it might take a long time for a different firm to step in and do the job.

It will be "very difficult" to find a replacement, Alan Riley, a British expert at the US-based think-tank the Atlantic Council, also told EUobserver.

"They [Russia] will have to find someone who would be credible to do the certification who would pass muster with the Danes," he added.

"But I suspect Moscow will go on pretending it [the pipeline] is still viable for a while," Riley said.

The Russian-owned Nord Stream 2 consortium and the Russian mission to the EU did not comment when asked by this website if DNV GL's decision would harm the project.

The latest blow came after previous US sanctions prompted Swiss-based firm Allseas to abandon pipe-laying on the last segments of the 1,224-km pipe in late 2019.

A Russian ship, the Fortuna, stepped in to replace Allseas' vessel.

The Fortuna completed a 2.6-km section in German coastal waters in late December.

And it plans to lay the final, 100-km long, segment in Danish waters in work starting on 15 January.

The €9.5bn pipeline would mean some 80 percent of Russian gas exports to the EU would flow via Germany, making it easier for Russia to cut off countries such as Poland or Ukraine in future for political reasons.

It was meant to have been completed by 2021.

But US officials, speaking to the Reuters news agency last week, said more sanctions were to come.

Stake through heart

"We've been getting body blow on body blow to this, and now we're in the process of driving a stake through the project heart," one of the US officials said.

The US has complained that Nord Stream 2 was a geopolitical instrument designed to increase EU energy dependence on Russia, in views shared by several central European and Nordic countries.

Russia says the US is trying to sabotage it in order to sell more of its own liquid gas to Europe.

And Germany has vowed to go ahead even if the incoming administration of US president-elect Joe Biden continues to oppose the pipe.

"We do not need to talk about European sovereignty if that is understood as us doing everything in future the way Washington wants us to," German foreign minister Heiko Maas told the DPA news agency on 28 December.

"The German government will not change its stance on Nord Stream 2," he said, adding: "The important thing is that we [Germany and the US] are aligned on the central strategic and geopolitical issues, that we are on the same side of the field".

Germany's Uniper and Wintershall, Anglo-Dutch oil firm Royal Dutch Shell, Austria's OMV, and French firm Engie have co-financed the Russian pipe.

Opinion

Questions for Germany on EU's Russia strategy

Suspension or cancellation of Nord Stream 2 does not call for a drawn-out search for unanimity by the EU's foreign ministers, nor complex ratification procedures in the European Parliament or member states' parliaments, write three former EU prime ministers.

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Any firm issuing safety certificates for the Nord Stream 2 pipeline will find itself in US sanctions crosshairs, the state department has warned.

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