On January 24, the Fortuna pipe-laying barge resumed construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline in the waters of Denmark. This came in a report by project operator Nord Stream 2 AG's press service. And this despite the fact that on January 19, the US Treasury Department added Fortuna to the sanctions list. But Gazprom has long dissociated itself from the barge and is in no way legally associated with it. Fortuna is on the books of a paper company. At that, another pipe-laying ship, the Akademik Chersky, has not started its work so far.
The US authorities have so far reacted verbally to the news about Gazprom's performance in the Baltic. US President Joe Biden believes the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline is "a bad deal for Europe." A statement to that effect came on January 26 at a briefing by White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki.
February 6 witnessed Nord Stream 2 AG once again announce the resumption of efforts to accomplish the trans-Baltic system, with the Russian Fortuna barge having begun laying the pipes in the territorial waters of Denmark. Yes, this had been announced back on January 24, but those events were "sea trials". And now the real pipe laying process began across the Baltic Sea bottom. According to the project's operator Nord Stream 2 AG, some 148 kilometers of the system out of the total 2,460 kilometers remain unfinished offshore.
Gazprom intends to resist US sanctions in tandem with Germany. On January 19, a fund was created in Germany's federal state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern to counteract US sanctions, which will allow companies engage in the completion of Nord Stream 2 without the risk of restrictive measures on the part of Washington. This came in a statement by Minister of Energy in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Christian Pegel.
The lawmakers of Russia and Germany also plan to show a united front. Thus, Russia's Pavel Zavalny said on January 28 that his State Duma Energy Committee and the Bundestag Committee on Economic Affairs and Energy will unite to combat US sanctions against the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project.
Meanwhile, the German press keeps discussing the extent of the project's sanctions oppression and conditions for its future functioning. So, the German Handelsblatt newspaper reported that the United States sent a first-ever message of its readiness to discuss the suspension of sanctions against Nord Stream 2 with Germany. We are allegedly talking about an exchange – the United States wants guarantees of the possibility to temporarily disconnect the gas pipeline in case of restrictions on Russian gas transit via the territory of Ukraine. At the same time, the German Cabinet of Ministers, according to the German media, is considering the American-proposed scenario with a temporary shutdown of Nord Stream 2. Although the United States is known to have been actively promoting its liquefied natural gas (LNG) to the EU market for years. Gazprom is considered a key competitor to its LNG in the European market, for which reason they seek to weaken it by imposing sanctions against the project.
Western media continue to predict augmented issues associated with Nord Stream 2 . As reported by Bloomberg, Germany will abandon the project after the new government arrives. But this can hardly be deemed a feasible forecast yet. In a strategic sense, it is positively clear that Germany will need more Russian gas to implement a large-scale program of replacing coal and the atomic component. Besides, German business has invested a lot in the ambitious pipeline project. This is both the sea section and the land one. The latter – EUGAL (the continuation of Nord Stream 2 from Germany's Baltic coast to the border with the Czech Republic) – costs about 2.5 billion euros. One of the system lines was put into operation back in January 2020; the second one is being completed to become operational this spring on schedule. In turn, the first decade of January saw the Czech NET4GAS company announce the commissioning of the Capacity4Gas gas pipeline, which connected the Czech gas pipeline system with EUGAL. Investments in Capacity4Gas exceeded half a billion euros.
The consensus of today's pundit expectations for the completion date of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline is the first half of 2021. The February statement by head of Gazprom's Investor Relations Department Anton Demchenko is more rigorous: "Construction of the gas pipeline in Danish waters continues. The probable deadline for completion of this segment building is April 2021."
The ceremony of putting the Nord Stream 2 into operation may take place this year. This is stated in a presentation to the speech of Deputy head of Gazprom's Import Substitution Department Vladimir Vavilov at the cross-sector forum "Using scientific and technological potential of defense industry enterprises in the interests of the oil and gas industry".