Russia says it will launched Nord Stream 2 pipeline to Germany before the end of next year, a week after the United States imposed sanctions on major natural gas project, forcing a major contractor to halt work on the last section of the pipe.
Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak made the announcement on Friday, adding that Moscow could use its own pipe-laying vessel to skirt US sanctions.
“One of the options we have [to complete the pipeline] is a vessel that is currently in the Far East. But we’ll need some time for additional preparations,” he said, stressing that Russia itself has the equipment needed to complete the project.
The vessel that Novak mentioned is the Akademik Cherskiy pipe laying vessel, which is operated by a Gazprom subsidiary and is currently moored at Nakhodka, a port city in Primorsky Krai.
On December 20, US President, Donald Trump signed the $738 billion National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that includes sanctions against the Nord Stream 2. The sanctions bill requires the US State Department to report back within 60 days with the names of companies and individuals involved in pipe-laying for both gas projects.
The US Department of the Treasury also said at the time that “involved parties that have knowingly sold, leased, or provided vessels that are engaged in pipe laying at depths of 100 feet or more below sea level for the construction of Nord Stream 2… must ensure that such vessels immediately cease construction-related activity.”
Earlier in the week, Swiss-Dutch pipe-laying company Allseas succumbed to the pressure of US sanctions and suspended its work, temporarily halting the project.
The 9.5 billion euro ($10.6 billion) Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which is more than 90 percent complete, will run under the Baltic Sea and is set to double shipments of Russian natural gas to Germany.
Supporters of the 1,230-kilometer (760-mile) line say it will be a reliable source of cheap energy but critics warn it could end up vastly increasing Russia's alleged political influence in Europe, at a time of heightened tension between Washington and the European Union.
Europe is Russia's main customer for natural gas and critics fear the pipeline, which has an annual capacity of 55 billion cubic meters, will increase its reliance on Russian gas.
Russia had hoped to launch the pipeline in late 2019 but the completion has been delayed by difficulties in obtaining permits from Denmark. Then, it was slated for completion in early 2020 with a view to being operational in mid-2020.
Germany has already strongly denounced the US sanctions on the project and described the move as sheer intervention in the European country’s domestic affairs.
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