It is the end of a long disagreement between the United States and Germany. The American administration and the German government have reached an agreement on the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to complete the construction of this 1,200 kilometer tube which will carry Russian gas directly to Germany passing under the Baltic Sea. It will double the transport capacities of the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline, located on the same route.
Since its announcement in 2015, the project has met with opposition from the United States, and many countries in Central and Eastern Europe. One of the causes: the gas pipeline disrupts the traditional gas transmission network in Europe. For the benefit of Germany.
A project led by the Russian company Gazprom
To understand, you have to look at the map. Part of the Russian gas transported to Europe passes through Ukraine, bringing the country more than one billion euros per year in transit revenues. In terms of size, this channel is supplied by the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline, operational since 2011, then by a more modest route, passing through Poland. The reluctance of many countries lies in the fact that the capacities of the new gas pipeline could allow Russia to bypass Ukrainian and Polish routes.
The Nord Stream 2 project was first carried out by the Russian company Gazprom, in which the Russian state is the majority shareholder. It is financially supported by a group of large European energy companies which provided half of the 10 billion dollars (8.5 billion euros) needed for the project, even though Gazprom remains a 100% shareholder in the pipeline.
An economic issue that has become political
Very quickly, the economic issue became a political issue. Germany had several arguments to defend the Russian project. In the first row: the need to increase its gas supply capacities, to compensate for the end of nuclear energy planned in the country for 2022 and coal for 2038, which still represent more than 40% of the German mix, against 20% for gas.
At the same time, some European fields, notably located in the Netherlands, could close in the coming decade. This could increase Russia’s share of German gas imports. This provides 50 to 75% of the gas consumed in Germany, according to estimates by Eurostat, the European statistics agency.
One of the controversial arguments made by some German politicians concerns the energy security that the gas pipeline would bring to the country and to the European Union. It would make it possible to overcome any risk of blockage in transit countries linked to political, climatic or technical causes. Security argument briefly beaten by critics of the project, who fear on the contrary that it will increase Russia’s means of pressure vis-à-vis Germany.
Germany at the center of the gas game
“I don’t really believe in the energy transition argument, analysis for his part Thierry Bros, professor in geopolitics of energy at Sciences-Po. Not only has Germany’s gas consumption not really increased in recent years, but I don’t think Russia will send more gas to Europe for competitive reasons ”.
On the other hand, the doubling of the capacities of the Nord Stream route “Places Germany above all at the center of the European gas network”, for Thierry Bros. Because Germany would become one of the first gateways for Russian gas to Europe. It could thus send it to neighboring countries, reaping both economic benefits and geopolitical influence.