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Nord Stream 2 tight-lipped on Danish pipelaying plans, German progress

Highlights

Fortuna currently covering ground in Baltic Sea: Platts cFlow

Uncertainty over longer Danish section remains

Danish Energy Agency not notified on Danish schedule

London — Uncertainty continues over when work might resume to lay the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline in Danish waters, with the project developer saying Dec. 15 it would provide an update in due course.

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The Nord Stream 2 development company also said it could not give any update on the progress of laying the pipe in German waters after work resumed on Dec. 11 to install a small, 2.6-km (1.6-mile) stretch of the link using the Fortuna pipelaying vessel.

"We are not in a position to deliver construction details and will inform about further planning in due time," a Nord Stream 2 spokesman said.

Most of the remaining kilometers -- a little over 150 km in total -- are to be laid in Danish waters to the south of the island of Bornholm.

Meanwhile, work to lay the new stretch of the pipeline in German waters is not likely to take long given the small lengths involved.

According to S&P Global Platts trade-flow software, cFlow, the Fortuna has covered much of the ground required to lay the two parallel sections since it arrived on Dec. 11 from the German port of Wismar.

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.

Danish section

Nord Stream 2 is required to inform the Danish Energy Agency of its plans to lay the pipeline in Danish waters in advance.

Asked by Platts whether it had had such a notification, an agency spokesman said late Dec. 14: "No, I have not heard anything yet."

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 in Germany 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.

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.

The US Congress has now approved expanded sanctions against the project as part of its new defense bill.

Measures 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.

US President Donald Trump has vowed to veto the bill due to issues unrelated to Nord Stream 2, though it is thought Congress has the votes to be able to override any veto.