The gas pipeline that directly connects Russia to Europe
Nord Stream is an export gas pipeline running from Russia to Europe across the Baltic Sea. As it bypasses transit countries, Nord Stream provides Gazprom with direct access to European consumers. The pipeline ensures high reliability of Russian gas supplies to Europe.
Route map of Nord Stream and Nord Stream 2
Figures and facts
Annual capacity of two strings: 55 billion cubic meters of gas.
Length: 1,224 kilometers.
Nord Stream operator: Nord Stream AG joint venture (Gazprom – 51 per cent, Wintershall and Uniper (E.ON until 2016) – 15.5 per cent each, Gasunie and ENGIE – 9 per cent each).
Nord Stream is an ultra-reliable and technologically advanced route for Russian gas supplies to the European Union
In December 2000, the European Commission included Nord Stream as a priority project into the Trans-European Network for Energy (TEN-E) Guidelines. That status was re-confirmed in 2006. This means that Nord Stream is key for Europe’s sustainable development and energy security.
In April 2010, the construction of Nord Stream was launched in the Baltic Sea. The first string of Nord Stream was put into service in November 2011 and the second in October 2012.
Construction of Nord Stream gas pipeline. Solitaire pipe-laying vessel
Natural gas is pumped into Nord Stream by the Portovaya compressor station (CS). With an aggregate capacity of 366 MW, the Portovaya CS is unlike any other facility in the global gas industry.
Portovaya compressor station. Russia’s Baltic coast
Nord Stream was built using 1,220-millimeter pipes. The pipeline’s outlet pressure at the Russia-based Portovaya CS is 220 bar (220 kilograms per square centimeter), while the outlet pressure at the landfall point in Germany is 106 bar.
Before Nord Stream, no one in the world had ever built a gas pipeline that could transport gas for 1,224 kilometers without using compressor stations. There is a pressure backup on the German coast as there are no compressor stations in Greifswald either. That is why the available energy is enough to transmit gas not only across the Baltic Sea but also 100 kilometers further onshore using no additional compressor stations.
The pipes used in the project are made of unique steel. It took time for metal workers to create a material with such high strength and elasticity. Moreover, thanks to a special treatment, the roughness of the inside pipe surface is less than 6 microns (one micron is one thousandth of a millimeter). In order to achieve that, the pipe surface is polished mechanically and then covered with a special flow polymer coating.
Pipe production for Nord Stream gas pipeline
Thanks to the materials, technologies, and solutions used in the project, the gas pipeline is expected to operate flawlessly for at least 50 years.
The offshore gas pipeline does not require high maintenance costs. Pipeline monitoring is carried out using special inspection tools, which are pushed throughout the pipeline from Russia to Germany. These so-called smart pigs come with a computing system. The pipeline is designed so as to ensure an unobstructed passage for pigs. To this end, the inside diameter of the pipeline is kept constant at 1,153 millimeters along the whole route with an error of only one millimeter.
Nord Stream gas pipeline inspection using smart pigs
At the same time, as the pipeline stretches farther away from the Russian coast, its outside diameter is steadily decreasing in parallel to the gas pressure decline. The pipeline is meant to sustain the working pressure of 220 bar along the first 300 kilometers, 200 bar along the next almost 500 kilometers, and 170 bar up to the end. The wall thickness in these three segments varies from 34 to 27 millimeters. Such segmentation helped reduce pipe production costs without compromising quality.
The outside surface of pipes has a special anti-corrosion concrete coating. The concrete coating is made of high-density iron ore, which is crushed, mixed with cement, and put on pipes. As a result, pipes are wrapped in spiral reinforcement, which is filled with concrete, and then treated with steam in special tunnels for 24 hours. The concrete coating helps meet several challenges at once. Firstly, it keeps the pipeline on the seabed, preventing it from drifting off with undercurrents. Secondly, it serves as insulation, protecting the trunkline from outside mechanical damage.
Concreate coating plant
The Nord Stream project contributed to the development of the national pipe industry. Large-diameter pipes for the first string were produced by Vyksa Steel Works (25 per cent) and Germany’s Europipe (75 per cent). The second string was constructed with pipes manufactured by OMK (25 per cent), Europipe (65 per cent), and Japan’s Sumitomo (10 per cent).
Nord Stream is a transnational project. The pipeline was built in compliance with international conventions and national legislation of each country whose territorial waters and/or exclusive economic zone the pipeline traversed.
Prior to pipe laying, the areas of the Baltic Sea adjacent to the Nord Stream route were thoroughly studied. The pipeline was designed to be as straight as possible, with adjustments for important navigation routes, environmentally sensitive zones, and other special areas.
Study of Baltic Sea along Nord Stream gas pipeline route
The construction of Nord Stream was consistent with the most rigid environmental standards and left the Baltic Sea ecosystem undisturbed. In order to minimize environmental impacts, construction was halted during herring spawning seasons and migratory birds’ stopover periods in the region.
Research vessels traveled over 40,000 kilometers to study the seabed and its sediments and to look for ammunition and cultural objects. Experts meticulously analyzed seawater composition and the marine flora and fauna. The obtained data were processed and summarized in the environmental impact assessment that was submitted together with the application documents to the authorities of the Baltic States as part of the permitting process.