Denmark has decided that it will not grant permission for a northern route of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project and has asked the Russian-owned company to look into a southern route instead.
It is likely to delay the completion of the controversial project.
Russia’s Gazprom and the western companies involved in the project had hoped to complete the pipeline by the end of 2019. A change of the route in the Baltic Sea would entail substantial delays.
The 1,225 km long pipeline, already under construction, has come under fire from the United States and a number of eastern European, Nordic and Baltic Sea countries, who fear it will increase EU reliance on Moscow.
The pipeline, which will carry Russian gas straight to Germany under the Baltic Sea, has also been criticised in some quarters because it would deprive Ukraine of lucrative gas transit fees.
Four countries – Finland, Sweden, Germany and Russia – have approved the pipeline’s construction. Denmark is currently the only country that has not yet issued a permit for the construction in its territorial waters. Thus, the possibility of a potential Danish refusal is on everyone’s radar.
Responding to some media reports that Copenhagen had allegedly called a complete halt to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project, a spokesman of the Danish Energy Agency said that DEA has merely ‘requested’ the company to investigate the environmental impacts for a route south of Bornholm in the continental shelf area.
The southern route through the territorial waters of Denmark is subject to a law that allows Copenhagen to assess the request for the construction of Nord Stream 2 from the point of view of foreign and security policy.
When the Nord Stream 2 company provides the Danish authorities with an environmental impact assessment, it has to go through the normal procedure with public hearings. Due to the multi-staged process, details regarding a possible timeline are not yet known.
The news about the changed state of play comes as a backlash after a spokesman for the gas pipeline company announced on Monday (25 March) that it expected to receive approval from Danish authorities for a 180-km stretch of the pipeline under the Baltic Sea in time to finish the pipeline by the end of 2019 as planned.
Nord Stream 2 spokesman Jens Mueller said there was a good reason to believe the Danish authorities would process a second proposal submitted by the project in August 2018 within eight to 12 months, allowing the pipeline to be finished on schedule.
Nord Stream 2 AG confirmed that the Danish Energy Agency has not rejected either of the two pending permit applications and that both remain valid.
Nord Stream 2 will now carefully evaluate the request from the DEA and then decide what steps should be taken next.
According to Russian planning, the Nord Stream 2 was meant to become operational in late 2019 and was set to run from the Russian coast along the Baltic Sea bed to the German shore.