The operator of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to Germany has completed the process of filling the first 27.5 Bcm/year string of the link with "technical" gas, it said Oct. 18.
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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.
The process of filling the first string with gas began on Oct. 4.
"As of Oct. 18, the gas-in procedure for the first string of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline has been completed," Nord Stream 2 AG said in a 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 future."
Russia has repeatedly said that the early launch of Nord Stream 2 would help ease the current high gas prices in Europe, which have soared in recent weeks on intensifying concerns over winter gas supply amid lower-than-expected Russian deliveries.
The TTF day-ahead price hit a record high of Eur116.10/MWh ($39.51/MMBtu) on Oct. 5, according to S&P Global Platts price assessments. The contract was last assessed on Oct. 15 at Eur88.18/MWh.
The first string of Nord Stream 2 was completed in June, with pre-commissioning work having taken place since then.
The operator said Oct. 15 that pre-commissioning steps for the second string -- completed in September -- were ongoing. "Nord Stream 2 will inform about further technical steps in due time," it said.
Nord Stream 2 AG -- which is 100% owned by Gazprom -- is still waiting for a draft decision from the German regulator on its application for approval as an independent gas transmission network operator.
The Bundesnetzagentur only deemed the application from Nord Stream 2 AG as complete in early September, and it has up to four months from Sept. 8 to produce a draft decision.
That means a first decision might not be published before January 2022.
Unless the regulator gives the green light to begin flows in its draft decision, the process could delay first gas even further as the European Commission then has two months to review it before returning it to the regulator, which then itself has two more months to make a final decision.
Further complicating the certification process, Poland's PGNiG and its German trading subsidiary PGNiG Supply & Trading (PST) have been granted participation in the certification proceedings.
PGNiG and the Polish government have long been opposed to Nord Stream 2, saying it threatens European energy security and could see Poland's role as a transit country for Russian gas to Europe reduced.
PGNiG said that putting the pipeline into operation before obtaining a final certification decision would constitute a breach of German and EU law.