Last Updated on September 28, 2022
Leaders of Denmark, Norway and Poland attended a ceremony on Tuesday to announce the official opening of the new Baltic Pipeline. The pipeline will transport natural gas from the Norwegian shelf via Denmark and through the Baltic Sea to Poland, according to EuroNews. The completion of the Baltic Pipeline has long been a strategic goal of European nations — namely Poland — in order to diversify the continent’s energy market and lessen dependence on Russia. Leaders formally announced the pipeline’s completion just hours after “unprecedented” damage affected both the Nord Stream 1&2 pipelines, which were built to transport fuel between Russia and Germany. Heads of state from a number of European nations suspect sabotage played a role in the Nord Stream incidents.
Poland was previously cut off from Russian gas exports this past April, after refusing Moscow’s demand that buyers pay in rubles. The completion of the Baltic Pipeline was a strategic goal of Poland’s before the war in wider Ukraine broke out, though the project received increased focus after the energy war with Russia accelerated.
“The era of Russian domination in the field of gas is coming to an end, the era that was marked by blackmail, threats and extortion,” Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said at the inauguration, which took place at Budno in western Poland.
Norwegian Energy Minister Terje Aasland said it was “an important step on the important road to Europe’s independence from Russian energy.”
“We must do everything we can to eliminate energy as an instrument of Russian power,” added Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen. “Together we will defeat Putin.”
Danish system operator Energinet said that the Baltic Pipeline could be commissioned at full capacity a month early thanks to better-than-expected progress in Denmark. Construction in Denmark had been paused for nine months due to environmental concerns, but resumed last March.
The pipeline is now expected to be fully operational in November, two months earlier than its anticipated January completion. “Due to an extraordinary effort on the part of everyone involved, we were able to lay the remaining pipelines faster than expected. Full commissioning can therefore take place ahead of time,” said Torben Brabo, Energinet’s Director of International Relations.
“Baltic Pipe is part of a larger Polish strategy to end dependency on Russian gas flowing through the Yamal pipeline. It was a cornerstone of the plan. The fact that it is being finalized earlier than expected of course comes at a good time, since Poland no longer receives the gas it used to,” Trine Villumsen Berling, senior researcher in global security at the Danish Institute for International Studies (DIIS), told EuroNews.
“It was, however, always the Polish plan to stop using Russian gas when the contract with Gazprom ran out by the end of 2022,” she added.
The completion date of the Baltic Pipeline was announced on the same day that both Nord Stream pipelines suffered “unprecedented” damage as a result of what is believed to be deliberate sabotage, according to the governments of Denmark, Sweden and Germany.
Seismologists from Sweden’s National Seismology Center (SNSN) told public broadcaster SVT that powerful blasts were recorded in the area not long before the leaks were detected. “There is no doubt that these were explosions,” SNSN seismologist Bjorn Lund said of the Nord Stream disturbances.
The Swedish government has announced that a full investigation is now under way. Actions of a foreign power have not been ruled out as of this time, the government has said.
While neither pipeline was operational at the time of the disruptions, the incidents have heightened energy fears as winter approaches in Europe. Nord Stream 2 was never completed, but Nord Stream 1 accounted for a sizable chunk of Germany’s fuel imports prior to the conflict in Ukraine.
As a result of sanctions, Russia had already limited Nord Stream 1’s capacity to 20%. The flow was halted entirely in July, however, after Russia’s state-owned energy giant Gazprom moved to halt exports to “unfriendly countries.”
The shutdown sent already heightened energy costs skyrocketing even further in Germany, raising fears of energy rationing in the nation and other European nations.
Russia has denied any responsibility for the incidents and has called for an investigation. “This is a very concerning news. Indeed, we are talking about some damage of an unclear nature to the pipeline in Denmark’s economic zone,” said Russian government spokesman Dmitry Peskov. “This is an issue related to the energy security of the entire continent.”
More information regarding the Nord Stream incidents is expected to be revealed in the coming days and weeks.