Uncovering the History of the North European Gas Pipeline

Christopher McFadden

The North European Gas Pipeline (NSGP), more commonly known as Nord Stream, is an offshore natural gas pipeline connecting Vyborg, Russia with Greifswald in Germany. Running for 1,224 km, Nord Stream is the longest sub-sea pipeline in the world. The pipelines can deliver an annual capacity of 55 Billion M3 but plans exist to double this output to 110 Billion by 2019 when two more pipelines will be added. EU restrictions on the operator mean that only 22.5 Billion m3 is actually used per year.

It consists of two parallel pipelines with the first deployed in 2011. The second line was laid between 2011 and 2012. In the joint venture, Gazprom holds a 51 percent stake, BASF / Wintershall and E.ON Ruhrgas have 15.5 percent each and NV Nederlandse Gasunie and GDF Suez hold nine percent each.

Uncovering the History of the North European Gas Pipeline[Image source: Nord Stream]

Supply and Demand

Europe consumes just shy of 500 Billion m3 of natural gas every year. A good proportion of this is now supplied by the NSGP. NSGP exports Natural gas from Yuzhno-Russkoye oil and gas deposits from Russia to Germany.

The first pipeline's construction began in April 2010 with works completed in June 2011. The second line was started in May 2011 with its completion in April 2012.

Each pipeline has the capacity to transport 27.5 Billion M3 of natural gas, with a combined capacity of 55 Billion M3. The first line began delivery in November 2011 with the second line the following year in October 2012. Commercial gas delivery commencing in November 2012.

The bulk of the gas delivered through the pipelines comes from The Yuzhno-Russkoye with additional reserves sourced from Yamal Peninsula, Ob-Taz Bay and Shtokmanovskoye.

Uncovering the History of the North European Gas PipelineCastoro Dieci: Central Assembly Line [Image source: Nord Stream]


In 1997, Gazprom and Neste (the former name for Fortrum) created a joint company, North Transgas Oy. This new companies plan was to construct and operate a gas pipeline from Russia to Northern Germany, across the Baltic Sea.

A German partnership was agreed with Ruhrgas (later E.ON). In April 2001, Gazprom, Fortum, Ruhrgas and Wintershall commissioned a joint feasibility study for the pipeline. In November 2002, the management committee of Gazprom approved a schedule of project implementation.

Fortrum sold their stake in the company in May 2005 and transferred their 50 percent stake to Gazprom. This made Gazprom 100% shareholders for the project. Gazprom, BASF and E.ON signed a basic agreement for the project's construction in September 2005. One month later, the North European Gas Pipeline Company, was incorporated in Zug, Switzerland.

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Construction began on the Russian onshore section in December 2005. In October 2006 both the operating company and the pipeline was officially re-named, Nord Stream.


Division of labor

Saipem got the construction contract in June 2008. This contract had a value of more than 1 Billion Euros. The project required three pipe laying vessels. Licensing for exploration and development of the Yuzhno-Russkoye oil reserve was given to OAO Severnefte Gazprom, a 100 percent subsidiary of OAO Gazprom. Technip got a 35 Million Euro contract to provide frame four tie-ins over the parallel pipelines in March of 2010.

NSGP enables Gazprom to become one of the world's major gas producers. Germany is the largest export market. This project also strengthens Gazprom's place a major supplier to Germany and Europe.  Intecsea Engineering carried out the front-end engineering and design in 2008.

NSGP project overview

The pipeline stretches for 917km onshore in Russia, with the rest under the Baltic Sea. The underwater stretch of the pipeline runs from Portovaya Bay, Vyborg to Greswald in Germany.

The Yuzhno-Russkoye field has in excess of one trillion cubic meters, with 700 Billion M3 in proven reserves.

Development of the field cost an estimated 1 Billion Euros. Workers laid the first 100km of the pipeline in 2006 in the Leningrad region. The pipes have a diameter of 1,220mm, wall thickness of 38mm and working pressure of 220 bar.

A service platform exists within the infrastructure around 90km to the North-East of Gotland Island, Sweden. The platform is 30m by 30m and stands 35m above sea level. This platform is used for maintenance and servicing of the pipelines. It also includes launch and reception of testing and diagnostic equipment, as well as control of gas parameters and placement of isolation equipment.

Uncovering the History of the North European Gas PipelineGas Treatment Unit Portovaya [Image source: Nord Stream]


WINGAS supplies German and Western European customers with gas. WINGAS serves as a joint venture between Wintershall (owned by BASF) and the Russian company OAO Gazprom. Wintershall owns a 65 percent stake with the remainder owned by OAO Gazprom.

Through the pipeline, WINGAS will procure 9 Billion m3 of gas a year for 25 years. The WINGAS and E.ON Ruhrgas pipeline systems in Germany supply gas from NSGP to E.ON and BASF.

Russian onshore section

The Russian onshore section of the pipeline commenced construction in December 2005 with works completed in 2010.

The Russian section stretches from Gryazovets to the coastal compressor station at Vyborg in the Leningrad region.  It runs for 917km with a diameter of 1,420mm and pressure of 10MPa. This section is secured by six compressor stations.

Gas supplied by this section of pipe also supplies gas to northwestern Russia (St Petersburg and Leningrad Oblast). The branch line in Karelia connects the onshore section to Finland.

Baltic Sea offshore section

Running from Vyborg compressor station to Greifswald, Germany, this section of the pipeline runs beneath the Baltic Sea for 1,196km. 22km of this is inside Russian territorial waters, 96km within the Russian Economic Zone, and 369km within the finish economic zone.

The pipeline also runs for 482km in the Swedish economic zone, 37km in the Danish economic zone, 112km in the zone disputed between Poland and Denmark, 33km in the German economic zone and 33km within German territorial waters.

Western European section

Uncovering the History of the North European Gas PipelineThe Landfall of the Nord Stream Pipeline in Germany [Image source: Nord Stream]

This section of the pipe includes two transmission pipelines in Germany. The Southern pipeline, OPAL, stretches from Greifswales to Olbernhau near the German-Czech border. It is tied to Nord Stream with JAGAL (connected to the Yamal-Europe pipeline) and STEGAL (connected to the Russian gas transport route via Czech and Slovak republic) pipelines.

The western pipeline connects to the Rehden-Hamburg gas pipeline and runs from Greiswald to Achim.

It delivers to the UK through a connection between Bunde and Den Helder as well as through offshore interconnector Balgzand-Bacton (BBL) pipeline.


As the pipeline bypasses Poland, Lithuania. Belarus and the Ukraine, this pipeline not only provides a new channel for Russian gas export but also reduces the sovereignty risk of cross-border projects. The pipeline reduces transportation costs and provides a reliable gas supply to Western Europe, North West Russia, Scandanavia and the Kaliningrad exclave. In addition, the new Gryazovets-Vyborg pipeline - via Vologda and Leningrad regions - connects the NSGP with the Russia's United Gas Transmission system to cater for gas demand in the St Petersburg and Leningrad regions.

SEE ALSO: World's Most Impressive Aqueduct

Sources Nord-Stream.com

Featured image courtesy of Pixabay.

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