Nord Stream gas pipeline: ready for take-off

April 9, 2010

Celebrations were held on Friday at the Portovaya compressor station in the Vyborg District, Leningrad Oblast on the occasion of the start-up of the Nord Stream gas pipeline construction in the Baltic Sea.

The gas pipeline, which is to link the gas transmission systems of Russia and the European Union, will satisfy some 25 per cent of additional European demand for natural gas as soon as in 2 years and a half. So far, in the location from where Russian gas will start its voyage to Germany there are a reinforced concrete platform with the area of dozens of square meters to accommodate guests, and the white pavilions surrounded by scarce northern vegetation. Once you leave the paved roadway for vehicles and helicopters, you feel a yellowish sand under your feet – several hundred thousand cubic meters of soil were brought here and backfilled for the compressor station construction. The bay itself with the gas pipeline landfall can not be seen from here. However, you can feel the gusts of salty wind from the Baltic Sea.

Inside the pavilions everything is absolutely ready to welcome the distinguished guests – a conference hall equipped with huge displays, a big hall for media men from all over Europe.

In half an hour the distinguished guests start arriving – Dmitry Medvedev, President of Russia; Guenther Oettinger, EU Energy Commissioner; Alexey Miller, Chairman of the Gazprom Management Committee; Gerhard Schroeder, Chairman of the Nord Stream AG Shareholders’ Committee; as well as heads of the European companies holding stakes in Nord Stream AG.

In his welcoming address to the event participants Dmitry Medvedev noted that the project had been preceded with unparalleled preparatory work. “Frankly speaking, it sometimes seemed to me this would never end. However, it ended and everything necessary was done to guarantee environmental safety and reliability of the project,” Russia’s President said. He emphasized that the Nord Stream gas pipeline is a key element of the global energy security. It is a framework project for the energy dialogue between Russia and the European Union. This is clearly shown by the special Trans-European Network status assigned to the pipeline. Dmitry Medvedev noted that the Nord Stream “will ensure reliable supplies to Europe at fair and reasonable prices”.

Later on, in her video address to the event participants German Counselor Angela Merkel underlined that the gas pipeline construction “is not a political, but an economic project”.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev

Welding of the first joint of the gas pipeline was started up by Matthias Warnig, Managing Director of Nord Stream AG. Later on, in the vicinity of the pavilions, two pipes were welded together. One of them was marked as Russia, the other – as Europe. National flags of the countries participating in the project were placed on the pipes. Dmitry Medvedev put his signature on one of them and wrote a short wish: “Good luck!” Thus, the Nord Stream gas pipeline construction was officially launched.


Beavers take over the work

At the same time, over 600 kilometers away from the Portovaya Bay shore in the vicinity of Sweden’s Gotland Island, a gigantic pipe-laying vessel Castoro 6 – which is translated from Italian as “a beaver” – was laying the 4th kilometer of the first string of the gas pipeline on the Baltic Sea bottom.

According to Marco Casirati, Manager Pre-Commissioning and Russian Landfall (Wet Section), Nord Stream AG, pipe welding for the gas pipeline is carried out on board the vessel. The ends of two pipes, 12 meters long each with the diameter of 1,153 millimeters, are treated in a special way in order to shape them for subsequent welding together. Owing to a special technology the process, which takes half an hour onshore, is accomplished in 5 to 7 minutes. Welded joint testing is carried out on board the vessel as well – every single millimeter is subject to automatic ultrasonic control in order to detect potential faults. Once the joints pass the required checkup procedure, they are covered by corrosion-proof shrunk-on rings with a mechanical protection coating.

The manufacturer covers the pipes with an internal friction-reducing and an external corrosion-resistant coating. Subsequently, at two plants located on the Baltic Sea shore in Mukran (Germany) and Kotka (Finland) the pipes are covered with a concrete coating 60 to 110 millimeters thick to make them heavier and ensure stability on the sea bottom. Ultimately, the weight of each pipe increases nearly twofold and reaches 25 tons.

Two-thirds of all pipes have already been supplied to various warehousing terminals on the shore allowing for prompt delivery on board the vessel.

Equipment and personnel of all vessels are capable of carrying out pipe laying operations 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Meanwhile, in order to minimize the environmental impact construction activities will be suspended for the herring spawning period and the periods when migratory birds stop over here. At the same time, the project participants say that at the operating stage the gas pipeline will attract fish populations as an artificial reef. The gas pipeline will consist of three offshore sections with various wall thicknesses – from 27 to 41 millimeters – corresponding to a pressure decrease from Vyborg to Greifswald.

The bulk of the Nord Stream construction activities will be assumed by the Castoro 6 vessel. It will lay the pipes at the near-shore pipeline section close to the Russian landfall and the offshore section from the 350th to the 1,196th kilometer until mid-2011. From September 2010 to January 2011 the Solitaire vessel (translated as “a recluse”) will join the Nord Stream gas pipeline construction to lay the pipes from the 7.5th to the 350th kilometer in the Gulf of Finland.

The near-shore section close to the German landfall will be constructed by the Castoro 10 vessel, which will be involved in the operations from June 2010 to pull the pipe onshore in the Bay of Greifswald. The operations here will be carried out until 2010.

In 2011 construction of the first string will be completed. At the same time, construction of the second string will start. The second string will increase the gas pipeline capacity from 27.5 to 55 billion cubic meters. In 2012 the second string will cross the German shoreline in the vicinity of Greifswald.

Time bridge

It was here in Greifswald when 300 years ago a Danish painter Andreas Moeller created a portrait of Ekaterina I which became the project symbol. Shortly before the celebrations dedicated to the first joint welding Alexey Miller presented the painting to Dmitry Medvedev. “This portrait is symbolic. It was painted in Greifswald – a German town which is the ultimate point of the Nord Stream gas pipeline,” said Alexey Miller. “The portrait was created in 1712; and exactly 300 years later, in 2012, the second string of the Nord Stream will reach Germany and the gas pipeline will be brought to projected capacity,” he added.

According to Mikhail Piotrovsky, Director of the State Hermitage Museum, so far Gazprom has managed to have the painting exhibited in the Museum. However, the portrait could later be given to the Hermitage as a present.

In honor of Nord Stream completion a unique mail stamp will be printed. Photo: Alexey Miller and Director of State Hermitage Museum Mikhail Piotrovsky
In honor of Nord Stream completion a unique mail stamp will be printed. Photo: Alexey Miller and Director of State Hermitage Museum Mikhail Piotrovsky

In honor of Nord Stream completion a unique mail stamp will be printed. Photo: Alexey Miller and Director of State Hermitage Museum Mikhail Piotrovsky

In 2012 a mail stamp will be printed with this portrait on it. There will be an old map of the Baltic Sea on the stamp with the current route of the Nord Stream gas pipeline. A copy of the portrait will be permanently kept at the Portovaya compressor station.

The portrait of Ekaterina I was created within a year after her wedding with Peter I during a visit of the spouses to the town of Greifswald. “During the rule of Peter I there was an unprecedented expansion of ties between Russia and Europe,” said Alexey Miller.

300 years passed and the Nord Stream gas pipeline construction project evidenced a robust and equal partnership between Russia and the European Union, and became a symbol of political, economic and cultural ties among the countries.

Gazprom website Editorial Board