Russia could miss the deadline to begin pumping gas to Europe through the controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, unless Denmark approves construction in its waters in the next few weeks.
The EUR 9.5 bln link that will carry gas from Kremlin-controlled Gazprom to Germany has received authorization from several of the Baltic Sea nations whose waters it will cross, but not Denmark. Permit applications with the Danish Energy Agency for two different proposed routes have been pending for months, throwing the planned year-end launch date into doubt, according to Financial Times.
"If we do not get approval from the Danish in the next few weeks then we will not make the deadline," a senior official close to Nord Stream 2 told the Financial Times. A second source close to the project said the next month would be critical. "It is almost August and that creates concern if not panic," the person said.
Any delay would be another blow for a project designed to double the capacity of the first Nord Stream pipeline, fully launched in 2012. Nord Stream 2 is designed to allow Gazprom to reroute the bulk of the gas volumes so far running through Ukraine. The launch of the pipeline was due to coincide with the expiration of an existing gas transit contract through Ukraine on December 31.
However, Poland and the Baltic states have sought to block construction of the export pipeline, saying it will increase Europe's reliance on Russia, while President Donald's Trump administration in Washington has threatened to sanction the project. Moscow insists the link it is a purely economic venture.
Alexei Miller, Gazprom chief executive, said last month that the 130km Danish leg of the pipeline would take a maximum of five weeks to complete.
But experts say that testing and filling the pipeline would lengthen the process.
Gazprom had been pumping record volumes of gas into underground storage tanks in Europe, which signaled that the company would enter the peak demand period without either the Ukraine transit route or Nord Stream 2.
Denmark's energy agency said Gazprom's applications were being processed "in accordance with national and international law and procedures". The agency was simultaneously assessing the applications and addressing responses from public consultations, which would remain open until September 19.
"It is not currently possible to say how long this process will take. It depends, for example, on the content of the consultation responses received and possible further consultations," the agency said.