The Russian-led Nord Stream II pipeline project to supply natural gas to the European Union via Germany in competition to LNG, said it was now starting the commissioning process and introducing first gas.
The Nord Stream II company, whose shareholders include Russian gas giant Gazprom and five European partners, said in a statement that it would begin filling the first of the two pipelines in the project with natural gas.
“The offshore sections of the first gas pipeline laid from the Russian side to Germany are now interconnected,” said the Nord Stream II project company
“The commissioning works to fill the first gas pipeline with gas will begin,” it said.
“Offshore pipe-laying works on the second pipeline are ongoing. All activities are in accordance with the respective permits,” stated the Nord Stream II company, registered in Switzerland.
Both pipelines run on the seabed of the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany, by-passing Ukraine, which hosted the first land-based gas links to West Germany begun in the 1970s.
The Russian-led Nord Steam II project, supported by Germany in particular among EU nations, has faced criticism from the US for increasing European reliance on Russian gas
Nord Steam II is costing €9.5 billion ($11.6Bln) to complete and its shareholders in addition to Gazprom include Royal Dutch Shell as well as German utility Uniper, German oil and gas company Wintershall Dea, Austrian energy company OMV and French utility Engie.
The second pipeline of the Nord Stream II project is almost complete and the whole project would double the capacity of the existing Nord Stream I pipeline to 110 billion cubic metres of gas per annum of imports into the EU.
The 1,230-kilometres double-pipeline links under the Baltic made landfall at the northern German coastal town of Lubmin, near Greifswald after starting from the Russian port of Vyborg, near Ust-Luga.
The US had previously criticised the pipeline by-passing Ukraine and depriving that nation of transit fees while increasing EU energy reliance on the Russians.
Analysts note that LNG imports will be affected, especially shipments from the US which use Europe as a destination when demand in Asia passes the winter peak.
Pipeline gas is Germany's preferred option as it will enable the shutting of its large coal-fired power plants.
It is the only major economy in the EU not to import LNG, though two terminal projects are in the development stages.
The Nord Stream II pipeline will also strengthened the position of Russian pipeline gas against Norwegian supplies to the EU from the North Sea, Norwegian Sea and Barents Sea.
The first Nord Stream project under the Baltic to supply gas to the EU was inaugurated in November 2011 and also comprising two pipelines.