The surrender of the certifier
The new year 2021 began with a slight shock for Nord Stream. The Norwegian structure, which formally cannot even be called a firm (Det Norske Veritas and Germanischer Lloyd, DNV GL), refused to certify the gas pipeline.
As you know, without this, pumping blue fuel through it will be impossible. In the official release DNV GL noted that the decision to
"The termination of all activities to verify the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline was taken in accordance with the US sanctions."
The validity period of such a decision is not named.
But it is noted that
"Certification is not possible as long as US sanctions remain in place."
Gazprom did not remind in this regard that the Norwegian certifier not only loses a very lucrative contract, but can also be punished with fines.
In general, the concern has recently preferred not to rush with all sorts of comments, especially since the situation changes too often. However, they recalled that back in the fall of 2020, DNV GL notified Gazprom and other project participants about its refusal to provide equipment certification services on pipe-laying vessels involved in the Nord Stream 2 project.
As you know, one of the victims then was the KMTUS "Akademik Chersky" crane and pipe-laying vessel. This forced the operator of the project to use the less productive pipe-laying barge TUB Fortuna to lay pipes in the exclusive economic zone of Germany.
It should be recalled that the choice of Norwegian specialists for certification was made in due time, not least due to their high professionalism. The good from DNV GL could be viewed as a kind of "quality mark" and a guarantee in case of force majeure of all kinds, up to the same sanctions.
The surrender of the certifier, who has worked with Nord Streams since 2012, once again confirmed the assessment of US sanctions against an international, in fact, gas pipeline, expressed by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak.
According to him, the measures already included by American lawmakers in the country's defense budget,
"Are open protectionism for the promotion of US liquefied natural gas (LNG) in the European market."
Certifiers and Protectionists
For a long time the certifiers took a hit, although no one demanded that they work out the contract with Gazprom ahead of the curve.
And the protectionists from the United States, obviously, hoped that the earlier sanctions would be enough to stop the ambitious project.
Meanwhile, the protectionists still had an understanding of the fact that even the toughest sanctions could be circumvented, and it was only a matter of price and time. Nevertheless, Russia, like its European partners, is not going to take the new sanctions for granted.
Hence the rather harsh rhetoric of Alexander Novak and his colleagues from Germany. The Russian Deputy Prime Minister recalls that the
"The instrument is absolutely not competitive."
And after that, he reasonably appeals to European countries and international companies that are interested in implementing the project. Novak is convinced that
"They support the project, and ... that with this support, it will be implemented."
Experts, after the adoption by the US Congress of the defense budget, and with overcoming the veto of President Trump, noted that such a decision did not come as a surprise to anyone. However, it is unable to stop the implementation of the project, although it will almost certainly slow it down.
Most likely, there is no need to be afraid of serious problems with the completion of the construction itself. At the same time, the timing will inevitably be affected by the lack of experience of Russian specialists, and the presence of a maximum of two pipelayers where four could work.
Protectionists and sanctions
Currently, US sanctions have actually expanded to cover virtually all areas of activity associated with the Nord Stream 2 project. Being hit by the Norwegian DNV GL is most likely a retaliation for the fact that it at one time without any problems certified the first Nord Stream.
However, with all the desire, the US sanctions cannot be expanded to the whole world. The experience of Russian pipelayers has shown that bypassing the sanctions is not only possible, but also not so expensive.
Everything again depends on the time factor.
And it is no coincidence that many believe that the Americans are trying with all their might to gain time in order to conclude long-term contracts with the EU for their LNG. Taking into account this factor, Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation Alexander Novak noted that he expects that the construction of Nord Stream 2 will be completed as soon as possible.
Novak is also sure
“That the question of time is technical. It should be addressed to the company that is directly involved in the implementation (of the project). "
Not only the Russian Deputy Prime Minister, but also many European politicians admit that for Europe, Nord Stream 2 does not just provide an opportunity for many years to receive an inexpensive and environmentally friendly resource.
The project, as we already wrote (Nord Stream-2: second bottom of second stream), is clearly calculated for the hydrogen perspective. Yes, it is not yet very real, but the Nord Stream pipes will live to see it even if the most pessimistic forecasts are realized.
Sanctions and satisfaction
Currently, no major complications are expected with the completion of pipe-laying in Danish waters. And there is no need to rush to certify the gas pipeline.
Therefore, you can safely prepare a decision by the end of pipe-laying - closer to the summer of 2021.
Experts call the involvement of a Russian certifying firm with a European license as one of the solutions. However, the fact that such a practice is not prohibited in the European Union does not at all guarantee that certification will take place without problems, and most importantly, it will be recognized in the same EU.
The fact is that delays are possible just when the Russian structure receives European licenses and registration. It is possible that after receiving them, the company will immediately fall under sanctions and simply will not be able to certify anything. But even in such a scenario, Russian gas workers and their partners can find an antidote to US sanctions.
Under the current conditions, many European or offshore companies that have the right to certify facilities such as Nord Stream 2 have already really burned out and are just waiting for the ban on bankruptcy to be lifted. Therefore, they not only can, but most likely simply yearn to receive a lucrative contract at last, after which they will fall under sanctions, but safely go into oblivion.
In this regard, it is worth recalling that at one time the vice-president of the oil division of DNV GL, Nils Andreas Masvi, spoke more than once about minimizing the risks associated with the project. Now these risks can grow significantly.
But for some, it seems that sanctions are much worse.