Gazprom Plans to Start Nord Stream 2 Gas Pipeline Next Month

Gazprom PJSC is planning to start flowing natural gas through one of the world’s most controversial pipelines next month, according to people with direct knowledge of the company’s plan. 

The Russian gas giant wants to begin shipping the fuel through the first leg of the Nord Stream 2 link to Germany on Oct. 1, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the information is private. The timing of actual flows into Europe’s gas grid will still depend on a decision by the German regulator.

The long-awaited pipeline could provide some relief to European gas markets facing a supply crunch before the start of winter, with prices already at a record. It’s also a win for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who supported the project for 10 years in the face of opposition from key allies such as the U.S.

Gazprom declined to comment.

Nord Stream 2 inched closer to the start of operations this week when its owner said the last pipe of the second leg had been welded and was due to be lowered onto the seabed. The next step would be to connect the Danish and German sections before pre-commissioning works are carried out.

Gazprom is targeting gas flow through both lines of the twin link under the Baltic Sea by Dec. 1, the people said. The company had already said the pipeline could flow 5.6 billion cubic meters of the fuel this year.

To be sure, Nord Stream 2 still needs to receive technical certification and insurance, which may be challenging due to the U.S. sanctions imposed last year. The operator also needs a preliminary go-ahead from the German regulator, which is currently considering Nord Stream 2’s application for the status of an independent transmission system operator.

Initially expected to come online in 2019, Nord Stream 2 suffered repeated delays, with the U.S. threatening to penalize companies involved in building it. Prospects for completion changed after President Joe Biden decided to waive some sanctions in May, and then struck a deal with Germany that warned of retaliation if Russia tried to use energy as a weapon against neighbor Ukraine.

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