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Nord Stream 1's Operator Plans to Seal and Preserve Damaged Pipelines

nord stream
Gas bubbles up from one of the ruptured Nord Stream pipelines, September 27 (file image)

Published Mar 16, 2023 9:01 PM by The Maritime Executive

The operator of the damaged Nord Stream 1 pipeline system is planning to conserve the pipes from saltwater damage in case there is ever a desire to put them back in service, according to an executive with German utility E.ON. 

The Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 subsea pipeline complexes were hit by explosive blasts on September 26. Investigators have determined that the attack was a deliberate act of sabotage, but the identity of the attacker is disputed. 

https://www.maritime-executive.com/index.php/article/u-s-germany-add-ukrainian-partisans-to-nord-stream-suspect-list

Each complex is made up of two parallel pipelines, four pipes in total. Both of the Nord Stream 1 pipes were severed, along with one of the two Nord Stream 2 pipes.

Pipeline industry experts have warned that the timeline is ticking on repairs, if any are desired. Saltwater begins to take a toll on the interior of a damaged pipeline, and the longer it remains immersed, the greater the damage. 

The methods for conducting a subsea repair on the four-foot-wide pipelines already exist, as the same techniques and tooling were used during the lines' construction for joining up sections. Political will and commercial demand are another question: At the time of the sabotage attack, the lines had already been shut down due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. In the intervening months, Europe has gone to great expense to remove Russian natural gas and oil from its energy markets. 

While the commercial conditions for a repair may not be ripe at the moment, the operating company for Nord Stream 1 plans to preserve the lines in case Europe ever wants to resume imports of inexpensive Russian gas.  

"The operating company [Nord Stream AG] is currently concentrating on clarifying how the two destroyed lines can first be sealed and drained so that the lines do not corrode further," said E.ON CFO Marc Spieker in a results briefing on Wednesday. "From today's perspective, it is complete speculation whether they will at some point aim for a repair . . . It depends on many factors - political, social, economic. Only time will tell."

E.ON holds a 15.5 percent stake in the Nord Stream 1 operating company. This week, E.ON reduced its estimate of the value of that stake to zero, reflecting the challenges Nord Stream 1 faces to reactivation. The other shareholders are Russian state gas producer Gazprom (51 percent), along with Gasunie, Wintershall Dea and Engie.