London — The developer of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline has resumed work to lay a small 2.6 km stretch of the link in German waters using the Fortuna pipelaying vessel, it said Dec. 11.
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According to Platts cFlow, trade-flow software, the Fortuna was in position in German waters off the coast of the island of Rugen, having left the German port of Wismar on Dec. 5.
"Nord Stream 2 confirms the resumption of pipelay works planned for Dec. 11," a project spokesman told S&P Global Platts.
"The pipelay vessel Fortuna will lay a 2.6 km section of the pipeline in the German Exclusive Economic Zone in water depths of less than 30 meters (100 feet)," he said.
The confirmation from Nord Stream 2 follows an updated notice to sea-farers published Dec. 11 by the German Waterways and Shipping Authority Stralsund, identifying the Fortuna as the vessel set to lay the section.
The notice, it said, was valid "immediately".
The Fortuna has been used to lay Nord Stream 2 before, specifically for nearshore pipelay works in the Russian section of the 55 Bcm/year pipeline.
It is a vessel that uses anchors, unlike Russia's Akademik Cherskiy pipelayer, which has dynamic positioning capabilities.
Vessels using anchors are typically slower at laying pipe than those with dynamic positioning capabilities.
Nord Stream 2 remains unfinished, with a little over 150 km left to lay in German and Danish waters.
Without Nord Stream 2, Russia's Gazprom will have to rely on the transit of gas via Ukraine in much larger volumes than it intended when it signed a five-year deal at the end of last year.
While the resumption of activity has been seen as a small victory for Nord Stream 2 given that it is almost a year since work was suspended due to the threat of US sanctions against pipe-layers, the bigger challenge is when and how the pipeline will be laid in Danish waters.
The Nord Stream 2 spokesman said the company would inform about further offshore construction activities "in due time".
Under an updated Danish permit for laying the pipeline, Nord Stream 2 can use either vessels with anchors -- such as the Fortuna -- or those with dynamic positioning capabilities to complete the pipelaying.
However, the threat of US sanctions against any company involved could still present an obstacle to pipelaying in Danish waters.
US measures introduced as part of the expanded Protecting Europe's Energy Security Act (PEESA) statute in October target companies involved in pipe-laying at depths of 100 feet or more below sea level.
The German section is shallower than that, which could be the reason Nord Stream 2 can carry out that work as the depth was specified as less than 100 feet.
The US is also set to pass expanded sanctions against the project as part of its new defense bill.
They would target companies that provide underwriting services, insurance for vessels engaged in the construction of Nord Stream 2, as well as those providing services for upgrades to vessels and for inspection and certification activities.
Meanwhile, Germany is reportedly looking at the possibility of creating a state-protected 'trust' to hold Nord Stream 2 assets as a way to avoid US sanctions.