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Russia's Gazprom says no sign of Nord Steam 1 turbine

July 16, 2022

Russian energy giant Gazprom says it has asked German engineering firm Siemens for the return of a turbine that was being fixed in Canada. There are fears state-owned Gazprom could use the opportunity to cut off gas.

Russland | Portovaya Kompressionsstation
The powerful Portovaya compressor station pressurizes gas to the required level for transport through Nord Stream 1Image: Nord Stream Ag/ZUMA Wire/IMAGO

The Russian gas supplier Gazprom said Saturday it had asked German engineering company Siemens for details about the return of a turbine — under maintenance in Canada — to ensure the delivery of gas from the Nord Stream pipeline to Europe.

Gazprom is conducting maintenance on the pipeline over a 10-day period and has stopped delivering gas through the conduit, which runs beneath the Baltic Sea.

What's the problem?

European countries, particularly Germany — to which the pipeline runs from Russia — are anxious to see if gas supplies are resumed.

There are fears that Moscow could use the annual work on the pipeline — which was scheduled well in advance — to shut down gas deliveries in response to Western sanctions over Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Gas supplies via the pipeline had already dwindled by about 60%, even before the switch-off, with officials blaming problems with the gas pumping turbine.

Moscow has already said the restart of supplies depends upon actions taken by the West, and that it depends on preventing negative effects of unlawful restrictive measures."

Canada has issued a "time-limited and revocable permit" last week that would exempt the turbine from sanctions imposed on Russia by Western nations, but Gazprom says it has seen no evidence that the turbine will be sent.

What is Gazprom saying?

Despite the waiver, Gazprom has said it does not know if the turbine — which is used at a compressor station for Nord Stream 1 — will be returned.

"On July 15, Gazprom submitted an official request to Siemens to obtain the documents... to allow the export of the gas turbine engine of the Portovaya station, a critical facility for the Nord Stream gas pipeline," the firm said in a statement.

"Gazprom is counting on the Siemens Group to unconditionally fulfill its obligations with regard to servicing gas turbine engines on which depend the reliable operation of the Nord Stream pipeline and natural gas supply to European consumers," the company said on Saturday.

What's happening with the turbine?

The turbine is believed to still be in Canada, with a spokesman for Siemens saying company experts were "working intensively on all other formal approvals and logistics."

Ukraine summoned Canada's ambassador on Monday and described the decision to return the repaired turbine as "unacceptable." The World Ukrainian Congress filed a lawsuit asking the Canadian federal court to review the decision in the hope of having it overturned.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responded to the criticism, saying the sanctions "are aimed at Putin and his enablers, and aren't designed to harm our allies and their populations."

Trudeau said the "difficult decision" to allow these parts to be shipped to Germany was taken to avoid a possible major energy crisis in Europe, and to prevent popular support for the West's backing of Ukraine from ebbing away.

rc/sms (AFP, Reuters)