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Nord Stream 2 pipelaying vessel not in position to resume Danish work: cFlow

Highlights

Notice had said pipelaying work to restart from Jan. 15

Testing, preparations required before restart: spokesman

As US pressure ratchets up against companies involved

London — Work will not resume to lay the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline in Danish waters on Jan. 15, with the vessel approved to carry out pipelaying not yet at the site of the unfinished pipeline, according to S&P Global Platts trade flow software cFlow.

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That is despite the development company now being in a position to restart after the Danish Maritime Authority published a notice to sea-farers advising that work to lay the remaining kilometers of Nord Stream 2 would resume in Danish waters from Jan. 15 using the Fortuna pipelaying vessel.

According to cFlow, the Fortuna is currently off the German port of Rostock, some way from the site of where the pipeline will be laid south of the Danish island of Bornholm.

A Nord Stream 2 spokesman said Jan. 15 that there would be "preparatory work and tests" to be carried out before actual pipelaying would resume, and that the notice to seafarers states that work would resume from Jan. 15, and not on Jan. 15.

A little over 150 km of Nord Stream 2 remains to be laid in Danish and German waters, but the threat of US sanctions against companies involved in laying the pipeline has led to long delays in its completion.

The outgoing US administration is reported to be looking to step up sanctions against the project before the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden on Jan. 20.

There is already the threat of US sanctions in place against companies involved in laying Nord Stream 2 and providing services such as insurance and certification.

That -- and the fact that Nord Stream 2 will alter the European gas landscape significantly once operational -- has led to major interest in the timetable for pipelaying work.

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 2019.

Expected timetable

It is thought that the Fortuna, which already laid a small 2.6 km stretch of the 55 Bcm/year link in German waters in mid-December -- the first work on laying the pipeline since December 2019 -- could be first taking on bunker fuel before heading to the site off Bornholm in the coming days.

It is expected that work to prepare for new pipelaying may then take a further week or more, meaning first pipelaying may not take place till late January or early February.

The DMA notice said the Fortuna would lay the two-string pipeline sections in Danish waters and be accompanied by the construction vessels Baltic Explorer and Murman.

According to cFlow, the Baltic Explorer is currently in the Swedish port of Ystad, while the Murman is anchored off the German port of Mukran.

As well as laying the short German section, the Fortuna had already been used before to lay part of Nord Stream 2 in Russian waters.

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.

The DEA in July approved Nord Stream 2's request for permission to lay the line in Danish waters using ships with anchors, meaning it could lay the remaining pipeline using the Fortuna.

Nord Stream 2 had asked -- as a precautionary measure -- for an amendment to its Danish pipelaying permit to allow the potential use of pipelaying ships that use anchors for positioning.

According to the original Danish permit from October 2019, pipelaying ships, such as the Pioneering Spirit used by Switzerland-based Allseas to lay much of the pipeline before the US sanctions forced it to halt work, should have

dynamic- or self-positioning capabilities.

The Akademik Cherskiy has such capabilities, but there have been doubts about whether it had undergone sufficient upgrade work to be able to lay the remaining pipeline.