London — The Akademik Cherskiy pipe-laying vessel, which is expected to complete construction of Russia's Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, is now heading toward the Suez Canal, S&P Global Platts trade flow software cFlow showed Thursday, suggesting Europe is its final destination.
The vessel could reach Danish waters in two months, according to Platts Analytics, which forecasts that first the Nord Stream 2 gas could reach Germany as early as Q4 2020, with a ramp-up to full capacity in Q1 2021.
"We can see from cFlow that the next destination for the Akademik Cherskiy is Suez and that the expected date of arrival is March 25. Overall, we expect it to take two months to reach the Danish waters. From then on, we think it will take the vessel another couple of months to finish laying the remaining 160 km and a few more to commission the pipeline. Therefore we forecast first flows on Nord Stream 2 in Q4-20, with a ramp-up to full capacity by Q2-21," S&P Global Platts Gas Analyst Ornela Figurinate said.
Construction works on the 55 Bcm/year Russian Nord Stream 2 pipeline linking Russia to Germany via the Baltic Sea were abruptly interrupted in late December after the US government implemented new sanctions threatening measures against contractors building the project.
Pipe-laying company Allseas halted works on December 21, leaving 160 km – out of the total 2,460 km length – still to be laid in Danish waters.
A few weeks later, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the project would be completed without international assistance and be operational by the first quarter of 2021.
Media reports pointed to the Akademic Cherskiy, which belongs to Gazprom and has the dynamic positioning capabilities requested by the Danish permit application, as a likely substitute for Allseas' pipe-lying vessel. Russia's energy minister Alexander Novak also mentioned the vessel as an option in late December. The vessel's recent movements appear to be backing up the claims.
At the time of Putin's announcement in January, the Akademic Cherskiy was moored at the Russian Far East port of Nakhodka. On February 9 it started its journey toward Singapore and then again to Colombo, Sri Lanka, on February 24, before being re-directed toward Suez Thursday.
Speaking in Washington at a webcast Atlantic Council event, Naftogaz CEO Andriy Kobolyev said late Tuesday that his company was in talks with the US on whether the country was planning further measures to prevent the controversial pipeline from being completed.
There has been speculation in the media that the US government could be preparing more sanctions to target Nord Stream 2.