Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA): Nord Stream Pipeline

Brief Background on Case Study of Nord Stream Pipeline

Nord Stream is a 1,224-km twin pipeline system that is currently underconstruction and is being built to run through the Baltic Sea in order to transport natural gas from Russia to Europe. It is considered as the direct connection between the gas reserves in Russia and the EU’s energy markets.

Nord Stream Pipeline

The 10-billion dollar project is handled by Nord Stream AG – an international consortium of five major companies, which are OAO Gazprom, Wintershall Holding GmbH (a BASF subsidiary), E.ON Ruhrgas AG, N.V. Nederlandse Gasunie and GDF SUEZ. Nord Stream AG is based in Zug, Switzerland and was established in 2005 specifically for planning, construction and operations of the gas pipelines.

Due to the transboundary nature of the Nord Stream Pipeline, extensive consultations were conducted with the five countries – Russia, Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Germany, from which permissions were required before construction of the pipelines could commence. However, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland were also invited to become a part of the consultation process because the project may also affect their countries.

The Espoo Convention is an agreement that was adopted in 1991 by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe. It sets out obligations for parties to assess the environmental impact of projects at an early stage of planning and binds signatory nations to notify and consult one another on grand projects that are likely to have significant environmental impact across boundaries.

Since the Nord Stream Pipeline project involved nine Baltic Sea nations, the Espoo Convention served to remind all the countries affected to review the project’s potential impact. National legislation thus called for an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) to be completed before a national permit for the project could be granted. Hence, Nord Stream conducted various surveys and studies on the Baltic Sea seabed and ecosystem and as a result, the Nord Stream Espoo Report was prepared and published in 2009.

This EIA report is set in a transboundary context with emphasis placed on protecting the environment, and allowing for response from the public and other stakeholders. According to nord-stream.com, some examples of the mitigation measures that were undertaken are the “avoidance of sensitive sites, the scheduling of construction activities to avoid the breeding periods of seabirds and spawning periods of fish, and the use of control measures to manage the spreading of sediments”.

(Click here to download and read the report)

In addition to the agreements established with the countries involved, Nord Stream also launched an environmental monitoring programme at the beginning of the pipelines’ construction in April of 2010, and is planned to continue monitoring the progress of the pipeline through 2016.

The first pipeline (Line 1) has already been completed and delivery of gas from Russia began in November 2011. Both lines of the Nord Stream Pipeline system is expected to be operational by the end of 2012. According to the Nord Stream website, the pipelines combined will be able to deliver up to 55 billion cubic metres of gas annually.

(Source: http://www.nord-stream.com)

Click below to watch a news report on the project partners and European leaders turning the “valve” at the inauguration of the first pipeline, as well as some inputs on EU energy security.

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