Gazprom: One Nord Stream Pipe String May Still Be Usable

nord stream
Gas boils out of a leak in one of the four Nord Stream pipe strings, Sept. 27 (Swedish Coast Guard)

Published Oct 4, 2022 6:47 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Nord Stream 2 pipeline system is still half operable, according to owner Gazprom, and could be used to supply Russian natural gas to Germany - with political permission.

A suspected sabotage attack blew at least three and potentially four holes in the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines last week. An investigation under the aegis of the Swedish, Danish and German governments is currently under way. Industry experts say that the damage would take six to 18 months to repair, assuming that the interested parties wish to or are allowed to fix the infrastructure; Gazprom was sanctioned by the United States after the invasion of Ukraine, making business deals difficult for contractors.

Though widely misreported as single pipelines, Nord Stream 1 and 2 each have two parallel pipes or "strings," and all four are of roughly equal capacity. Gazprom says that both of the strings in the Nord Stream 1 system were damaged, but one Nord Stream 2 string remains pressurized and potentially intact. The company is lowering the pressure in the sole remaining line in order to conduct an inpection, and it left open the possibility of starting up deliveries afterwards (if authorities allow it). 

Nord Stream 2 was completed last year but never entered into operation. The expansion project was widely viewed in the West as an enabler for Russian aggression against Ukraine, which hosts Russia's terrestrial gas pipeline infrastructure. Under heavy diplomatic pressure from the United States, Germany canceled the line's permitting before it could begin operations on February 22. However, this did not deter the Kremlin, and the invasion proceeded two days later.

The decades-old energy trade relationship between Russia and Germany has deteriorated over the following seven months. Over the summer, Gazprom tapered down shipments on the Nord Stream 1 line, citing maintenance issues. In September, Russia suspended gas deliveries via Nord Stream 1 indefinitely - but offered to sell the same gas on a different line if Germany would just allow the startup of the politically-fraught Nord Stream 2.

"The bottom line is, if you have an urge, if it's so hard for you, just lift the sanctions on Nord Stream 2, which is 55 billion cubic meters of gas per year, just push the button and everything will get going," said Putin at a recent press conference.

With Nord Stream 1 now firmly out of operation, Gazprom reiterated the offer to use Nord Stream 2. On Monday, the company said that it is reducing pressure in the surviving Nord Stream 2 string, and "if a decision is made to start supplies" and it is "confirmed by the supervisory authorities," it will reintroduce gas and begin operations.