​US using gas as a political weapon: Nord Stream 2 rep

US energy secretary Rick Perry. Image: Flickr/Idaho National Laboratory

The proposed Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to Europe has become more and more a political issue in the last few weeks, owing to US “fear-mongering” and the non-commercial promotion of its own gas over that of Russia, a spokesman for the project told Natural Gas World last week.

He was speaking the day after the US Senate voted almost unanimously in favour of a bill to impose more sanctions on Russia, a major live issue being Nord Stream 2: lending close to €1 billion each to the €9.5-billion project are Anglo-Dutch Shell, German BASF and Uniper, Austrian OMV and French Engie.

The view of the partners in the project, which at 1,200 kilometres would be one of the longest offshore gas pipelines in the world, is that it is commercial and not political. But opponents, mainly gas companies in east Europe, see it as a political project designed to strengthen Gazprom’s grip on Europe.

Engie CEO Isabelle Kocher said the bill was a way for the US “to try to favour its own gas” in Europe. She told reporters in Paris that she did not think the US can stop this project, Bloomberg reported on Friday.

Another partner, Shell, did not comment on the bill’s likely effect but told Natural Gas World that it had so far seen no reason to change course. German chancellor Angela Merkel also supports the pipeline, reportedly saying that a few legal details needed to be determined regarding the regulation of it, but that the European Commission did not need a mandate to negotiate them, as it requested a week ago.

Two US cargos of LNG arrived in Europe last week—one to the Netherlands and one to Poland—the first to arrive in northern and central Europe, where Russia and Norway have both been delivering gas at record volumes in recent years. Previously, since Sabine Pass started up in February 2016, the only US LNG deliveries to the European Union had gone south, to countries with high prices owing to poor connections to liquid hubs, such as Portugal and Spain.

The Nord Stream 2 spokesman said the project would not comment on matters going through the legislative process—the house of representatives has yet to vote on the bill—but quoted US energy secretary Rick Perry saying on June 9 that “energy policy is not just a vital element of US economic policy, but also a vital element of US foreign policy…One of the most important actions we can take is to use our massive shale gas resources to begin shipping LNG overseas…We will become a dominant energy force, using our research, development and delivery capabilities.”

In response, the Nord Stream 2 spokesman said: “Whether US companies want to deliver LNG or Poland wants to become a hub or build the Baltic Pipe—they should do so because competition is to the benefit of European customers. But it should be a fair competition, not based on outdated fear mongering.”

--Natural Gas World