Nord Stream 2 and the Controversies Around It Explained

In simple terms, Nord Stream 2 is ‘a new export gas pipeline running from Russia to Europe across the Baltic Sea’, Gazprom explains. As the pipeline is ready to start transporting gas from Russia to Europe, many wonder how it will affect gas supplies to the European Union and the UK.

Nord Stream 2 will come with many benefits for the European countries but it also bears some risks that could change the power relations on the continent. Here we discuss everything you need to know about the project.

What is Nord Stream 2?

So you heard the name Nord Stream 2 several times but you are not sure what exactly it is? Here you can find an explanation. Nord Stream 2 is an off-shore gas pipeline worth £9.5bn that runs alongside the existing Nord Stream pipeline.

The pipelines will start north of St Petersburg and will run for more than 1,200km, crossing the waters controlled by Russia, Finland, Sweden, and Denmark before finally reaching the coast of Germany.

The pipeline, which will become one of the longest such pipelines in the world, is supposed to start being operational by the end of the year and it will ‘double the amount of gas being funnelled into Europe to 110 billion cubic metres per year’, Express UK explains. Thanks to that, Europe will be able to enjoy a more sustainable gas supply.

As the continent is facing low storage levels and many fear that there will not be enough energy to meet the demand for gas during winter, the project can serve as a solution. Still, the project has encountered opposition from the US, Ukraine, and Germany.

What are the controversies around the project?

Once the pipeline starts running, Russia will gain direct access to the European gas market. Hence, many fear that in the event of political tensions between Russia and the West rising, Russia might use the pipeline to exercise its control over European states. The moment Russia gets annoyed it will be able to halt the gas deliveries, causing an energy crisis in Europe.

Some say that the project will negatively affect European energy security and will strengthen Russia’s economic influence over the region.

For the pipeline to start operations, ‘it needs to be certified by Germany’s Federal Network Agency and the ministry’s supply analysis is a key requirement for the regulator to continue that process’, Reuters reported. Now Germany is carrying out an investigation into how big of a threat to the security of gas supply to the Federal Republic of Germany and the European Union Nord Stream is.

‘The German regulator has until early January to certify the pipeline but may make its decision earlier. Once it has made its recommendation, it goes to the European Commission, which has another two months to respond’, Reuters added.

Ukraine opposed the project for slightly different reasons than the rest of the reluctant countries. Once the pipeline starts working, less gas will be passing through its territory, thus depriving the country of income it gets from gas transit fees. Currently, Russia is, to some extent, dependent on Ukrainian pipelines to transport gas to Europe.

‘Officials have said that Nord Stream 2’s gas flows could decrease Ukraine’s pipeline income by up to $3bn’, Offshore technology reported.

The US, even though not directly affected by the project, is also expressing its concerns and trying to slow the construction process. The US government believes that the pipeline would lead to Europe becoming reliant on Russia and could strengthen Russia’s position on the international stage.

What are the environmental threats of Nord Stream 2?

The effects of Nord Stream 2 have not only possible political consequences but there are also many environmental concerns associated with it. Activists in Russia have claimed that natural reserves inside the country are being destroyed during the process of constructing the pipeline. Greenpeace, a network of 27 independent national and regional organisations in over 55 countries, also said that endangered species in Russia are facing destruction because of the project.

Emerging Europe reported that ‘In 2017, Greenpeace activists published leaked correspondence between the representatives of the pipeline’s project company and Russian government officials, proving that accommodating Nord Stream 2 was more important than preserving the Kurgalsky reserve.’

Furthermore, Nord Stream 2 means that for decades to come Europe will be dependent on fossil fuels. Abandoning them and relying on renewables more is one of the most important steps in fighting climate change so Europe should take it into consideration.

Finally, the pipeline is expected to be releasing methane, which is a by-product of burning gas. Methane is considered to be 75 times more powerful than carbon dioxide, which means that the project is not environmentally friendly.

What does Nord Stream 2 mean for the EU?

Gas consumption in the EU is growing, especially as countries move away from coal to gas. At the same time, the domestic production of gas in the EU is in decline.

Hence, the European Union needs to import more gas to meet the higher demand and Nord Stream 2 will enable it.

‘The European Union gets about a third of its natural gas from Russia, and Gazprom’s supply is the cheapest on the market’ Politico observed. That is why the EU turns to Russia for additional gas supplies. Without Nord Stream 2 the EU member states could find it difficult to respond to the energy needs of their citizens.

What does Nord Stream 2 mean for the UK?

The UK does not support the project but, at the same time,  it is not dependent on Russia for its gas supply. In fact, Britain generates most of its energy itself. That said, Nord Stream 2 will not have an impact on gas supplies in the UK.

While that might be a good thing from the political point of view, the UK is facing extreme gas shortages and some have been hoping that the pipeline would solve them.

In recent months, the UK has been facing some of the highest wholesale energy prices ever recorded, which resulted in tens of suppliers going out of business. Receiving more gas supplies could help lower these costs but the UK has to find a solution elsewhere as Nord Stream 2 cannot help solve the energy crisis there. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Who pays for Nord Stream 2?

Nord Stream 2 is founded by Moscow-based Gazprom, which is the project’s sole shareholder. Gazprom is responsible for providing almost half of the financing for the project. The rest comes from various European companies.

Does the UK get gas from Russia?

The UK is a big gas producer and it generates a big proportion of its energy on its own. Nevertheless, to meet the demand it also has to import gas from other states with Norway being the main source of the UK’s imported gas. In addition to Norway, the UK gets a significant amount of gas from the Netherlands and Belgium. As for Russia, the UK gets only around 5 per cent of its total gas usage from it so the UK does not rely on Russia for its energy.

Why is Nord Stream 2 needed?

The demand for energy in Europe is growing and countries have been finding it difficult to meet it. Once the Nord Stream 2 starts running it will transport gas from Russia to Europe, making the gas supply more abundant and sustainable.

What will be the route of Nord Stream 2?

The route of Nord Stream 2 will cover 1,200 kilometres. It will start in the Ust-Luga area of the Leningrad Region in Russia and finish in the Greifswald area in Germany. The pipeline is an off-shore project and it will be running across the Baltic Sea.

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