Nord Stream is the most secure gas pipeline in terms of the environmental impact

Marco Casirati

Marco Casirati, Manager Pre-Commissioning and Russian Landfall (Wet Section), Nord Stream AG

Pipe laying for Phase 1 of the gas pipeline construction will be carried out by the Castoro 6 and Castoro 10 vessels of Saipem S.p.A, as well as by the Solitaire vessel of Allseas Group SA – these are the world’s largest pipe laying vessels.

Until April 2011, the bulk of pipe laying operations will be carried out by the Castoro 6 semi-submersible vessel. It is planned to lay an average of 2.5 kilometers of pipe per day.

From September 2010 to January 2011 the Solitaire vessel will join pipe laying operations. Unlike Castoro, it is a dynamic positioning vessel that does not use anchors. The positioning system ensures the vessel operation even in harsh weather conditions.

In the second half of 2010 the Castoro 10 pipe laying vessel will be working in the vicinity of the Nord Stream gas pipeline landfall in Germany. The design of this vessel allows for its operation in shallow waters. All the pipes for Phase 1 of the gas pipeline construction have been manufactured so far. It is planned to launch manufacturing of pipes for Phase 2 in this April–May. 75 per cent of Phase 1 pipes will be supplied by EUROPIPE, 25 per cent – by Vyksa Steel Works (VSW). 65 per cent of Phase 2 pipes will be supplied by EUROPIPE, 25 per cent – by VSW and 10 per cent – by Sumitomo from Japan.

Nord Stream will become the first gas pipeline to run under the Baltic Sea. Many aspects of this pipeline construction are similar to those of other offshore gas pipelines in the North and Black Seas. However, I may say that Nord Stream is the most secure gas pipeline in terms of the environmental impact. At the same time, the pipe laying speed will be unique – 2.5 kilometers a day. This speed is very hard to achieve; however, it is achievable.

Neel Stroeback

Neel Stroeback, Project director for Nord Stream EIA in a transboundary context, Ramboll

During the preparations for the gas pipeline construction, much work was done to assess the potential environmental impact. In general, the gas pipeline is designed in such a manner that avoids any impact on the environment. In case local environmental impact is inevitable, it should be minimized to the extent possible. Specialists investigated over 40 thousand kilometers of the sea bottom. After the investigations the gas pipeline route was optimized for a range of parameters. Thus, it will not cross munitions burial areas.

Large-scale investigation activities were carried out to study the Baltic Sea bottom. During the investigations many cultural objects were discovered. For instance, a vessel steering wheel dating back to over 300 years ago and made of wood was discovered on the gas pipeline route in Danish waters. The analysis of the wood showed that it originated from Poland or Lithuania, but not Denmark. This object is currently under investigation. Later on, it will be submitted to the Royal Naval Museum in Copenhagen. In addition, submarines of the Second World War were discovered in the Gulf of Finland.

Similar activities are performed as part of preparations for constructing any offshore gas pipeline. However, I have never seen work performed in such a detailed way. It took 3 years and 3 months to obtain the permits for construction activities from each of the 5 countries. It seems to be a long period; however, similar permits acquisition within other international projects sometimes takes up to 10 years. How could we manage to accomplish it before long? I believe it was possible due to the fact that all the 5 countries participating in the project were cooperating with each other and communicating in a pro-active manner. Moreover, it is very seldom when investors allocate such an amount of investment for a preparatory stage of a project. Over this period of time Nord Stream has always been open and transparent. The company has managed to established and maintain the relations of trust and confidence.

The opinions expressed in this section may not necessarily coincide with the official position of Gazprom