German Regulator Says Nord Stream 2 Pipeline Approval Months Away

The Slavyanskaya compressor station, the starting point of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline  

Final approval for the controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to Germany is not expected to come in the first half of 2022, Germany’s energy regulator said on December 16.

The Bundesnetzagentur regulator announced in November that it had temporarily suspended the certification process for the $12 billion pipeline, saying the Swiss-based Nord Stream 2 AG operator must first form a legal entity in Germany.

Bundesnetzagentur head Jochen Homann said at a press conference that Nord Stream 2 AG initiated a process to create a German subsidiary but not all documents have been submitted to restart the certification process.

"There will be no decisions in the first half of next year," he said.

Even when the regulator receives all the necessary documents and gives approval, the European Commission has four months to review the project to ensure it complies with EU energy directives. After that, the Bundesnetzagentur has another two months to give a final certification.

Nord Stream AG is half owned by Russia’s state-owned Gazprom in a consortium with European energy companies. The role of Gazprom in the project may present issues, because under EU energy law pipeline operators and gas suppliers cannot be the same company.

The Baltic Sea pipeline, which would double natural gas supplies to Germany and help ease a European energy crunch, was completed in September after years of controversy.

Germany says it needs the natural gas to help the EU’s largest economy transition away from coal and nuclear energy.

Critics say the project will increase Europe’s dependence on Russian gas and could be used to apply political pressure. Poland and Ukraine have been particularly vocal in their opposition, while the United States has also opposed it.

Concerns over Russia’s military buildup near Ukraine have put renewed focus on the pipeline.

Germany’s new Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock told broadcaster ZDF on December 12 that under an agreement between Berlin and Washington Nord Stream 2 would be halted if Russia were to attack Ukraine.

"In the event of further escalation, this gas pipeline could not come into service," Baerbock said after a G7 meeting of foreign ministers.

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