The Danish Energy Agency has requested from the Nord Stream-2 gas pipeline an environmental assessment of the alternative southern route further south of Bornholm in the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) but not the territorial sea, Reuters reported.

Denmark’s Energy Agency (DEA) is carrying out an assessment on how the new Gazprom-backed gas pipeline from Russia to Germany would affect the environment in its EEZ of the Baltic Sea.

Katja Yafimava, a senior research fellow at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, told New Europe on April 1 that Denmark has not rejected any of the existing two applications – the original southern route south of Bornholm in the Danish territorial sea and the alternative northern route north of Bornholm in the Danish EEZ but not territorial sea. “Both are still under consideration,” she said.

Yafimava stressed that it is not possible for Nord Stream-2 to bypass Denmark altogether.

The United States and some European states have opposed the pipeline, noting that Nord Stream-2 would increase Europe’s reliance on Russia. Washington has called on Europe to buy alternatives to Russian gas, especially US liquefied natural gas (LNG). Gazprom and Nord Stream-2 argue that the new pipeline would ensure high reliability of Russian gas supplies to Europe as EU import need to increase.

The entry point of Nord Stream-2 into the Baltic Sea will be the Ust-Luga area of the Leningrad Region. Then the pipeline will stretch across the Baltic Sea. Its exit point in Germany will be in the Greifswald area close to the exit point of Nord Stream. The route covers over 1,200 kilometres. The project aims to deliver 55 billion cubic meters of Russian natural gas through two twin pipelines to the EU states every year.

According to the requirements of country-specific national legislation, Nord Stream-2 submitted its national permit applications and Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) materials to the relevant national authorities of Russia, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, and Germany. Of the five countries, Denmark is currently the only one that has not yet issued a permit for the construction in its territorial waters.

“The fact that Denmark has asked for environmental assessment in respect of the alternative southern route does not prevent it from granting a permit in respect of either original southern or the alternative northern route,” Yafimava said, explaining that the request for environmental assessment in respect of the alternative southern route does not necessarily mean a delay for Nord Stream-2 as if Denmark issues a permit in respect of any of the three routes before the end of summer/early autumn, then the pipeline could still be built according to schedule.

“Denmark is basically keeping its options open,” she said, noting that if Denmark delays its decision beyond the end of the third quarter of 2019, then construction of Nord Stream-2 before the end of this year would not be guaranteed. “This would place Europe – especially south-east in a very precarious position if no post-2019 transit arrangement is agreed in respect of Ukrainian route before the end of 2019,” referring to the gas transit contract for Russia gas to Europe via Ukraine that expires at the end of 2019.

Nord Stream-2 EU Representative Sebastian Sass also reminded on 2 April that the Danish Energy Agency has not rejected either of the two pending permit applications by Nord Stream 2, so both of them remain valid. “The DEA has indeed requested Nord Stream 2 to include a route option into our environmental assessment in the Danish exclusive economic zone to the south of Bornholm. We are now evaluating the request from the DEA and will then decide what steps should be taken next,” he said.

He reiterated that Nord Stream-2 did apply for a northern route around the island of Bornholm avoiding Denmark’s territorial waters. This route would remain in the Exclusive Economic Zone of Denmark, he said, adding that Danish law allowing a foreign policy assessment of applications on the construction of an offshore pipeline does not apply outside territorial waters. According to Sass, the current request from the DEA concerns a new third route option further south than the base case of Nord Stream 2 which crosses into Denmark’s territorial waters around Bornholm

Nord Stream 2 AG signed financing agreements for the project with France’s ENGIE, Austria’s OMV, Royal Dutch Shell, Germany’s Uniper and Wintershall.

On 1 April, Russian gas monopoly Gazprom said in a statement that as of now, 915 kilometres of Nord Stream-2 pipes have been laid across the seabed of the Baltic Sea — around 37% of the total length in two-string implementation, Sputnik reported. “The laying of the sea part of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline is being carried out in strict compliance with the schedule,” the statement read.