Russia ready to mothball damaged Nord Stream gas pipelines: report

Russia is set to shut down and mothball the broken undersea Nord Stream gas pipelines as there are no immediate plans to repair or reactivate them, sources familiar with the plans have told Reuters.

Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2, each consisting of two pipes, were built by Russia’s state-controlled Gazprom to pump 110 billion cubic meters (bcm) of natural gas a year to Germany under the Baltic Sea.

Three pipes were torn apart by unexplained explosions in September, and one of the Nord Stream 2 pipes remains intact.

Also read: ‘Those behind Nord Stream blasts must be punished’: Russia

But rising tensions between Moscow and the West over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had already brought Nord Stream 1 to a standstill and, criticized by Washington and Kiev for increasing Germany’s dependence on Russia, was prevented from ever coming online .

Gazprom has said it is technically possible to repair the broken lines, but two sources familiar with the plans said Moscow sees little chance of improving relations with the West enough to require the pipelines in the near future. Is.

Europe has drastically cut its energy imports from Russia over the past year, while state-controlled Gazprom’s exports outside the former Soviet Union are set to nearly halve in 2022, reaching a post-Soviet low of 101 bcm .

A Russian source said that Russia viewed the project as “buried”. Two others said that, while there were no plans to repair the ruptured pipelines, they would at least be preserved for possible reactivation in the future.

Another source familiar with the plans confirmed that stakeholders are considering protection.

This would most likely mean sealing broken ends and applying a coating to the pipes to prevent further corrosion from seawater.

One of the Russian sources said that, if the marine liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the United States that Europe is using to offset some of its Russian supplies becomes more expensive, Europe may again turn to Russia. Willing to buy more than

Moscow’s Energy Ministry referred questions to pipeline operators, but neither they nor Gazprom responded to requests for comment.

Engie, Gasuni and Wintershall DEA – stakeholders in Nord Stream AG, operator of Nord Stream 1 – declined to comment.

A spokesman for Germany’s E.ON, which also has a stake in Nord Stream AG, said: “To the best of our knowledge as a minority shareholder, no decision has been taken for or against restoring the line.”

Who blew up the pipelines?

Moscow has said without providing evidence that the West was behind the blasts. Last month the White House dismissed as “complete fiction” a blog post by US investigative journalist Seymour Hersh that alleged Washington was responsible.

Investigations by Denmark, Germany and Sweden have not yet been concluded. (Also Read: Traces Of Explosives Found In Nord Stream Pipeline: Probe)

Nord Stream 1 had anyway been inactive since late August when it was shut down for maintenance, but did not restart it after Russia and the West argued about servicing a pumping turbine amid Western sanctions. Went.

The similarly-sized Nord Stream 2 was slated to be completed in September 2021 as tensions with Russia escalated and Germany’s regulators refused to certify it. Berlin halted the project on February 24 last year, days before sending its armed forces to Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed using the damaged link of Nord Stream 2 to pump gas, but Germany, now eager to end its dependence on Russia, rejected the idea. Poland has also stopped buying Russian gas.

Russia is currently exporting around 40 million cubic meters of pipeline gas per day to Europe through Sudzha on the border between Ukraine and Slovakia.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday that Moscow, which hopes to set up a gas hub in Turkey to replace the Baltic route, would no longer depend on the West as an energy partner.

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