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Nord Stream 2 operator completes process of filling second string with gas

Highlights

Part of technical preparations ahead of commercial launch

Nord Stream 2 can help 'stabilize' European prices: Putin

First string of new pipeline filled with gas in October

The operator of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to Germany said Dec. 29 it had completed the process of filling the second 27.5 Bcm/year string of the link with gas.

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The entire 55 Bcm/year Nord Stream 2 pipeline was completed in September, but commercial operations are yet to begin as the operator waits for regulatory clearance.

In the meantime, the operator Nord Stream 2 AG continues the necessary technical preparations for the pipeline ahead of its launch, and started filling the second string with gas Dec. 17.

"As of Dec. 29, the gas-in procedure for the second string of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline has been completed," it said in a short statement.

"As planned and in line with the system design requirements, the string is filled with some 177 million cu m of so-called technical gas, reaching a pressure of 103 bar in the pipeline," it said.

"This pressure is sufficient to start gas transportation in the future."

The process of filling the first 27.5 Bcm/year capacity string with gas began Oct. 4 and was completed two weeks later on Oct. 18.

Russia has repeatedly said an early launch of Nord Stream 2 would help ease the current lofty gas prices in Europe, which have hit new record highs this month on winter supply concerns.

The TTF day-ahead price hit an all-time high of Eur182.78/MWh ($207/MWh) on Dec. 21, an increase of 985% year on year, according to S&P Global Platts price assessments.

Prices have cooled somewhat since, with the TTF day-ahead contract assessed Dec. 24 at Eur96/MWh, still a year-on-year increase of 440%.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, speaking at a governmental meeting Dec. 29, again said the startup of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline could ease European gas prices.

"This new, additional route will undoubtedly help resolve the issue of stabilizing prices in the European market," Putin said, according to comments posted to the Kremlin website.

"Now, of course, everything depends on our partners, consumers in Europe. As soon as they make a decision, Europe will receive large additional volumes of Russian gas. Let me remind you that this is 55 Bcm/year," Putin said.

Certification process

While technical preparations for the launch of Nord Stream 2 now appear to be complete, it seems unlikely the pipeline will be able to begin commercial flows any time soon.

The head of the German energy regulator, the Bundesnetzagentur, said Dec. 16 there would be no final decision on the certification of the operator of the pipeline in the first half of 2022.

Speaking at a press conference, Bundesnetzagentur President Jochen Homann said the certification process remained suspended pending the submission of documentation from Switzerland-based Nord Stream 2 AG on the transfer of assets to a new German company.

The German regulator had four months from Sept. 8 to issue a draft decision on certification, but the process was suspended Nov. 16 after a little more than two months had passed.

The four-month process will resume once the regulator is satisfied that the actions around the German subsidiary are completed.

Homann said it was "difficult" to know when it would receive the updated documentation from Nord Stream 2 AG, which has declined to comment on the process.

The European Commission also has up to four months to issue a decision, after which time it is returned to the Bundesnetzagentur, which has a further two months to publish its final opinion.