European Companies Stick to Nord Stream 2 Even Amid U.S. Furor
(Bloomberg) -- European Union energy giants financing Nord Stream 2 are sticking with the natural gas pipeline that links Russia to the continent’s industrial heartland -- even under the threat of U.S. sanction.
Rainer Seele, the chief executive officer of Austria’s OMV AG, one of the principle financiers behind the project, said the EU needs to pursue its own energy interests. There’s no foreseeable risk that could stop the project, according to the CEO of central Europe’s biggest energy major.
“We continue to be committed to Nord Stream 2,” Seele said in interview on Wednesday. “I am not discussing an exit on financing the project. It is not on my table.”
The defiant note struck by OMV’s chief executive follows similar messages from other Nord Stream 2 backers, who include Engie SA, Wintershall DEA and Uniper SE. They say they’re not willing to ditch the 1,239 kilometer (770 mile) project, which is expected to meet increasing natural gas demand in Europe.
Wintershall CEO Mario Mehren said this week he’s confident that Nord Stream 2 will be built, echoing Uniper’s CEO Andreas Schierenbeck, who also expects completion of the project. Engie Chief Financial Officer Judith Hartmann said recently she expects talks with Nord Stream 2’s partners in December to consider next steps.
Nord Stream 2 has been in the center of inflamed tensions between the U.S. and Chancellor Angela Merkel, who’s trying to steer Europe’s biggest economy away from coal and nuclear power at the same time. The pipeline would potentially double the direct flow of gas channeled by Gazprom PJSC into Germany, potentially boosting Russian leverage over European economies and squeezing out U.S. liquefied natural gas suppliers from the market.
“We have done our job already, we have already financed the project,” said Seele. “What happens in the case Nord Stream 2 is not finished? Europe might have to import more LNG from the U.S. and that is the tension behind the initiative.”
U.S. sanction threats have been able to halt the project since last year, and now the U.S. House and Senate negotiators agreed to add insurers and technical certification companies to the list of exposed companies working on the 9.5 billion-euro ($11.3 billion) link. Meanwhile, Germany’s government is in talks with the companies to coordinate their response.
The latest round of sanctions against the Russian project should be included in a U.S. defense bill in December. The timeframe for the works to be resumed is not clear, according to Seele. Financiers don’t have information on what the next steps of pipe laying activities.
“Winter is knocking out of the door,” the CEO said. “This pipeline is needed.”
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