EnergyWatch

Denmark grants approval to Nord Stream 2

The Russian gas pipeline has received a green light to be laid through Danish territorial waters.

Photo: Nord Stream 2 / Axel Schmidt

The Danish Energy Agency (DEA) has given Nord Stream 2 AG permission to install its gas pipeline along the seabed through Danish territorial waters in the Baltic Sea, the agency informs in a statement Wednesday afternoon.

"The permission is announced in accordance with the Continental Shelf legislation and with basis in Denmark's commitments to the The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. The convention obligates Denmark to allow installation of transit pipelines in respect to resources and environment and allowing for instructions to be issued regarding where on the continental shelf the pipelines may be laid," DEA writes in the statement.

With the Danish permission in hand, the final obstacle has been cleared for Nord Stream 2 prior to project completion. As of late August, the consortium behind the pipeline had already installed three quarters of the pipeline, which will run gas from Vyborg, Russia, to Germany. At that point, the project only lacked Denmark's green light to lay the pipe through the country's waters. Permission to access the route southeast of the island Bornholm is now granted.

Formally speaking, the approval is of a purely administrative character. Ever since the first application landed on its desk back in 2017, the DEA has maintained that it was underway in processing the case with regard to considerations including environmental and maritime traffic. From Russia's side, however, the long processing time was considered to have been a political move.

The fact that the pipeline has a political character is beyond any doubt.

Ukraine and several other Eastern European countries, which have historically functioned as transit regions mediating Russian gas exports to Europe, have argued that the pipeline is an instrument that Russia would use to secure more potent political influence. With increased gas transit capacity circumventing these countries, Russia would be able to pressure its neighbors by threatening to shut off the gas – and without this threat having an equal effect in the other direction.

The US has also applied pressure on political entities including Denmark to deny permission. The US has insisted that its angle related to supply security concerns for both Eastern and Western Europe and was thus opposed to the continent’s dependency on Russian gas. The Kremlin, however, has objected to this and claimed that the US’s position was more likely guided by its interest in exporting LNG to Europe.

Nord Stream 2 was also the thinly veiled motivation for a piece of hastily ratified Danish legislation from 2018 that sought to block infrastructure projects in the event such could be considered in conflict with national security interests. That law was rendered irrelevant in June, when Nord Stream 2 AG opted to drop the original pipeline route, which not only traversed the Danish continental shelf – as in the case of Nord Stream 1 – but indeed also Danish territorial waters.

"I surmise that the Minister of Climate, Energy and Utilities [Dan Jørgensen, -ed.] intends to formally inform me, qua the non-applicability of the continental shelf law, that the Foreign Ministry’s assessment of whether a route through Danish territorial waters is in accordance with Denmark’s foreign policy and interests of security and defense," said Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod to Danish media TV 2.

The Nord Stream 2 pipeline consists of two pipes with lengths of 1,230 kilometers and will transport 55 billion cubic meters of gas per year. Nord Stream 2 is backed by Russian state-owned gas giant Gazprom and well as oil companies Shell, Engie, Wintershall DEA and Ömv as well as German utility Uniper.

English Edit: Daniel Frank Christensen

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