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Russian gas supply via Nord Stream 2 pipeline to start by end of year at latest - Austria's OMV

The first gas flow through the Nord Stream 2 is set to start no later than December 31 this year, the project's Austrian investor said, noting that 70 percent of the pipeline is ready to use.

The date for the gas infrastructure launch was revealed by Rainer Seele, head of the Austrian company OMV, one of the project's main European investors.

"The construction works are continuing according to plan. We see no time delay. We are planning with the first gas by the end of this year, so at latest December 31. The pipes are all on the site, and we have only 30 percent of pipe lay activities left," Seele said in a conference call on Wednesday, emphasizing that 70 percent of the pipeline has already been laid along the bottom of the Baltic Sea.

Speaking of possible hidden hazards for the project's implementation, the investor noted that the only unresolved matter so far is obtaining a building permit from Denmark, as the final stretches of the pipeline will go through Danish waters.

"The two ends will meet [in the] the territorial waters of Denmark… The concept is that we are going to build until the Danish waters, and then we have 130km in that economic zone which we are going to build the day we receive the permit from the Danish authorities," Seele explained.

Experts say Denmark will have to provide permission for pipe-laying eventually, but that it is hard to say at present whether it will be done in time.

"Now hardly anyone can say when the first gas will flow, because everyone is waiting for an answer from the Danes. They are openly delaying the approval process. They are openly pressured by the United States. The Danes have been reviewing Gazprom's applications for more than two years now, while having authorized the rival Baltic Pipe gas pipeline from Norway to Poland [without delay]," said Igor Yushkov, leading analyst with the Russian National Energy Security Fund, as cited by Sputnik.

Yushkov noted, however, that as part of the commissioning work, gas would nonetheless be allowed into the pipe once it is complete, so technically Seele's prediction may prove accurate.

"The question is in the daily volumes and whether the pipe will operate continuously. It is possible that it will be at the stage of pre-commissioning, not fully operative, [by December 31]," he concluded.

Led by Russia's Gazprom, the Nord Stream 2 project aims to double the gas capacity of the first Nord Stream line, with some 55 billion cubic meters of natural gas to be delivered to Austria, Germany and other European states. Berlin has insisted that the project will help the country meet its growing demand for energy as it phases out coal and nuclear power, according to Economy Minister Peter Altmaier, who spoke with Bild shortly before his trip to the US.

Washington is one of the most vocal critics of the Russian pipeline project. US President Donald Trump previously slammed the pipeline as a "tremendous mistake." On Wednesday, the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted in support of a bill sanctioning firms involved in the Nord Stream 2 construction, arguing that the project strengthens Moscow's economic grip on Europe. The new penalties became part of the "Protecting Europe's Energy Security Act," which seeks to address concerns about so-called "Russian influence" in Europe.

The Nord Stream 2 project's operator said on Thursday that it was assessing the US bill, but that it was too early to comment on any possible implications. The United States has also expressed interest in selling liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Europe. However, due to the higher cost of American LNG, so far Poland is the only country that has indicated a desire to buy it.

[Source: RT, Moscow, 01Aug19]

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