Nord Stream 2

Location:

Russia to Germany

Project risks:

Environmental Destruction, Social Harm

Companies:

  • PJSC Gazprom

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Nord Stream 2 is the perfect example of what happens when geopolitical gambles for cheap fossil fuels go wrong. Europe’s most controversial pipeline stretches 1,230 km (764 mi) from the Leningrad region in Russia through the Finnish, Swedish, and Danish parts of the Baltic Sea to the north-eastern coast of Germany.[1] Just as its sister pipeline Nord Stream 1, Nord Stream 2 consists of two parallel running pipelines, Line A and B.14337 Russian state-owned Gazprom is the company behind Nord Stream 2.[2] Wintershall Dea, Engie, Fortum/Uniper, OMV and Shell helped the Russian gas giant finance the pipeline.[3] In total, Nord Stream 2 cost EUR 9.5 billion.14339 After it was completed in 2021, Nord Stream 2 never went into operation. Seven months into Russia’s war on Ukraine, the pipeline is dead. A geopolitical ruin now physically damaged, it is unlikely to ever pump Russian gas to Europe.

Putin’s Pipeline Politics

With Nord Stream 2, Russia opened up a geopolitical hornets’ nest. International observers warned that Nord Stream 2 would make Europe heavily reliant on Russian gas deliveries. Critics from the European Union (EU) worried that more economic cooperation with Gazprom would bring Russian influence to Europe, along with even more Russian gas.[7] EU member states and officials argued that the pipeline was only a political tool and completely unnecessary for Europe’s energy security.1434114343 Many cautioned that the pipeline would allow Russia to bypass the Ukrainian gas route and further destabilize Ukraine after the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014. In addition, they argued that the resource dependency created by the pipeline connection would put economic and political pressure on the EU.143451434714349

Despite these early warnings, the companies Uniper, Wintershall Dea, Shell, Engie and OMV financed the pipeline. The German government only stopped Nord Stream 2 when Russian aggressions against Ukraine escalated.14351 On 24 February 2022, Russia waged an unprovoked, deadly war on Ukraine. In the weeks and months following the invasion, thousands of Ukrainian civilians have been killed, and millions have been forced to flee.14353 The International Criminal Court and other organizations are investigating suspected war crimes committed by Russian forces in Ukraine.14355

As the brutal war raged on, Russia used its pipelines and its gas to put European countries under pressure. Gazprom massively cut the gas supplies through its numerous pipelines to Europe.1435714359 In September 2022, Gazprom stopped the gas flows through the sister pipeline Nord Stream 1 completely. As gas prices soar, people have to bear the brunt of the crisis. Again and again, Putin used Europe’s gas addiction to bring the dead Nord Stream 2 project back into play.1478514363 Nord Stream 2 would have entrenched Europe’s dependency and provided Russia with even more gas money that would help fund its war against Ukraine.14365

On 4 May 2022, the Ukrainian-German organization Vitsche Berlin and the Syrian-German organization Adopt A Revolution together with Urgewald take to the streets and demand to immediately stop all gas, oil and coal imports from Russia. Copyright: Nick Jaussi

Few Lessons Learned

On 26 September 2022, underwater explosions likely delivered Nord Stream 1 and 2 a final blow.14367 Detonations ruptured both lines of Nord Stream 1, and one line of Nord Stream 2.14369 According to Gazprom, the second line of Nord Stream 2 is intact.14371 Large amounts of gas gushed from the 3 ruptured lines into the Baltic Sea and the atmosphere. Scientists saythat this could be the biggest gas leak in history.14373 The damages are so severe that German authorities believe Nord Stream 1 and 2 may never carry gas again.14375 Yet, Gazprom pushes to open up the intact second line of Nord Stream 2.14377

The European countries that willingly and knowingly made themselves dependent on Russian gas are frantically looking for alternatives. Oil and gas companies have been quick to see business opportunities in the global energy crisis. They are pushing gas projects all over the world that will only pay off if they operate over decades. Pieridae Energy is hoping to gain approval for its shelved Goldboro LNG facility to produce LNG for Europe on Canada’s eastern coast.14379 The Italian company Edison and its Greek partner DEPA are pushing the almost dead EastMed-Poseidon pipeline project as an alternative to Russian gas supply to Europe.14381 On Germany’s shore, Gasunie, RWE, Uniper, Fluxys and Deutsche ReGas are busy developing both temporary and permanent LNG facilities – projects that were never feasible before.14383 With their proposed gas infrastructure, European governments and oil and gas companies are threatening to lock Europe into a fossil future instead of speeding up the energy transition.

 
 

Arctic Gas for Europe

Nord Stream 2 has not only caused geopolitical mayhem. Far from Europe, the pipeline is also a threat to the Arctic and its inhabitants. The fossil gas that would flow through Nord Stream 2 comes from the Yamal peninsula in the Siberian Arctic.[13] There, gas companies destroy the Arctic tundra that indigenous people and their reindeer herds depend on.

The gas companies’ infrastructure fragments the Yamal peninsula where the gas for Nord Stream 2 comes from. They cut through the migration routes of Nenets herders and their reindeer. The Nenets must pile up sand on the road to protect their sleighs from the concrete. Credit: Gerner Thomsen_Alamy

Nord Stream 2's starting point lies in north-western Russia. In the Kurgalsky nature reserve, the pipeline dips into the Baltic Sea.[23] The Kurgalsky reserve is a coastal sanctuary for rare birds and animals such as the Baltic ringed seal.[24] Dunes, coastal meadows and mudflats cover this protected area.[25] Nevertheless, Gazprom has sent its construction companies into the Kurgalsky reserve to lay the pipeline.[26] Their machines have destroyed numerous protected and unique plants.[27][28] Botanists discovered that the company failed to transplant the protected plants.[29] Instead, it simply replaced them with non-endangered ones.[30]

The Baltic Sea is already under pressure from fisheries, ship traffic and pollution.[31] But Nord Stream 2 has damaged its marine ecosystems even more. In German waters, the gas pipeline runs exclusively through marine protected areas.[32] Dredging companies have scraped an 80-meter-wide corridor into the seabed for the pipeline.[33] As they removed sand and mud from the seafloor, they destroyed what used to be the home of marine animals, underwater plants, and stone reefs.[34] The construction of the pipeline has driven endangered animals such as porpoises, river lampreys and sea ducks out of their old habitats.[35]

Nord Stream 2 cuts through numerous marine reserves in the Baltic Sea where critically endangered porpoises live. Credit: Ecomare/Sytske Dijksen CC BY-SA 4.0

The dredging works also released 254 tons of phosphor from the seafloor into the already heavily over-fertilized Baltic Sea.[36] Phosphor is a nutrient that stimulates extensive algae growth.[37] Once the algae die, they sink to the bottom of the sea. Their decay on the seafloor takes up all the oxygen from the water.[38] The phosphor is creating dead zones on the Baltic seafloor that are void of marine life.[39]

Dredging companies scraped sand and mud from the seafloor to lay the pipeline. This work destroyed the seafloor and the marine life on it. Credit: dpa picture alliance / Alamy Stock Foto

Gazprom planned to pump 55 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas per year through Nord Stream 2 to Germany.[40] Burning this gas would have caused 100 million tons of CO2 emissions per year, an amount incompatible with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C limit.[41] This number does not even account for the methane leakages associated with the fossil gas supply chain. Over a 20-year period, methane is 86 times more powerful at warming the atmosphere.[42]

Defuel Russia’s War

Nord Stream 2 should never have been built. For years, the companies involved in the project, like Wintershall Dea, Engie, Fortum/Uniper, OMV and Shell, have propped up the war-mongering Russian government and ignored the destruction of marine ecosystems and the Arctic. Only the deadly Russian invasion of Ukraine convinced banks, insurers and investors to drop their investments in Gazprom and other Russian oil and gas companies that fuel Russia’s war machine.143851438714389 The disastrous, and incredibly expensive, fate of Nord Stream 2 should be a lesson in caution for anyone promoting gas as the energy future.

Groups working on Nord Stream 2: Deutsche Umwelthilfe, Naturschutzbund Deutschland, ClientEarth, Greenpeace Russia, Fridays for Future, Ende Gelände, Pipelines verSTOPfen!, NOAH - Friends of the Earth Denmark, Polski Klub Ekologiczny (Polish Ecological Club), Green World, Friends of the Baltic, Coalition Clean Baltic, WWF Russia, WWF Germany, WWF Baltic Ecoregion Programme, Urgewald

Sources:

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Urgewald 2021, Why Nord Stream 2 is a Bad Deal: Climate Disaster, Stranded Asset, Geopolitical Hornet's Nest, p.4 https://urgewald.org/nordstream2-report
E. Glazkova, I. Sorokina, A. Filippova and Evgeny Usov. Conclusion on the results of the trip to the Kurgalsky nature reserve: https://ccb.se/savekurgalskiy/)
E. Glazkova, I. Sorokina, A. Filippova and Evgeny Usov. Conclusion on the results of the trip to the Kurgalsky nature reserve: https://ccb.se/savekurgalskiy/)
Urgewald 2021, Why Nord Stream 2 is a Bad Deal: Climate Disaster, Stranded Asset, Geopolitical Hornet's Nest, p.4 https://urgewald.org/nordstream2-report
Urgewald 2021, Why Nord Stream 2 is a Bad Deal: Climate Disaster, Stranded Asset, Geopolitical Hornet's Nest, p.3-4 https://urgewald.org/nordstream2-report