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Russia gas export pipeline in jeopardy as Trump signs sanctions bill

Stock MarketsDec 20, 2019 10:07PM ET
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By Timothy Gardner

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Swiss-Dutch company Allseas said it had suspended work on building a major Russia-to-Germany natural gas pipeline in order to avoid U.S. sanctions contained in legislation signed by President Donald Trump on Friday.

The move throws into doubt the completion date of the $11 billion project that Moscow had said would be ready in months, jeopardizing plans to quickly expand Russian sales of natural gas to Europe via pipeline.

The participation of privately-held Allseas, a specialist in subsea construction and laying underwater pipeline, is integral to the completion of Nord Stream 2, led by Russia's state energy company Gazprom (MCX:GAZP).

"In anticipation of the enactment of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), Allseas has suspended its Nord Stream 2 pipelay activities," the company said in a statement dated Dec. 21, seen by Reuters shortly before Trump signed the bill.

"Allseas will proceed, consistent with the legislation's wind down provision and expect guidance comprising of the necessary regulatory, technical and environmental clarifications from the relevant US authority."

The annual national defense policy bill contains legislation, first sponsored by Republican Senator Ted Cruz and Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen, imposing sanctions on companies laying pipe for the project that will double the pipeline's capacity to Germany.

The bill calls on the administration to identify companies working on the project within 60 days to trigger the sanctions. That report will likely be completed faster than that, however, meaning the sanctions could be triggered earlier than expected, two U.S. senior officials told Reuters.

Nord Stream 2 would allow Russia to bypass Ukraine and Poland to deliver gas under the Baltic Sea to Germany.

Gazprom is taking on half of the project's planned costs and the rest is divided between five European energy companies: Austria's OMV, Germany's Uniper and Wintershall, Royal Dutch Shell (LON:RDSa) and France's Engie.

The Trump administration, like the Obama administration before it, opposes the project on the grounds it would strengthen Russian President Vladimir Putin's economic and political grip over Europe. Russia has cut deliveries of the fuel to Ukraine and parts of Europe in winter during pricing disputes.

"We have a degree of consistency, over a decade of opposing this issue, across presidential administrations," one of the U.S. officials said.

The United States has become the world's top oil and gas producer in recent years and is aggressively trying to sell the products abroad. The Trump administration has touted U.S. liquefied natural gas as "freedom gas" that gives Europe an alternative to Russian supply.

Washington says that Nord Stream 2 would also likely deprive Ukraine of billions of dollars in gas transit fees.

Germany says it needs the gas as it weans itself off coal and nuclear power.

Russia gas export pipeline in jeopardy as Trump signs sanctions bill
 

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Comments (3)
Triplicis Mundi Summum
Triplicis Mundi Summum Dec 22, 2019 4:11PM ET
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So much for the collusion myth, eh Democrats?
Dietmar Stahl
Dietmar Stahl Dec 21, 2019 1:19AM ET
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?? Sanction can only enforced nationlly and have zero binding internationally. Why this company even care about it???Anybody know? Wishful thinking of one country. Who cares?
Buzzy Jefferson
Buzzy Jefferson Dec 21, 2019 1:19AM ET
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Absolutely - they should just ignore the sanctions. They probably don't need to do business with The US anyway.
chip isbell
Chip Dec 21, 2019 1:19AM ET
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This is premier underwater pipeline company that probably does a lot of business with US companies.  They're not many companies that do this type of work. That could be the leverage.
Chris Martin
Chris Martin Dec 21, 2019 12:43AM ET
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Could this be collusion ? Liz , JB, might think so but you gotta understand Bernie used to do a "big hangout" in Russia. I bet he has stock in this pipeline. He'll probably go have a few shots with his comrades to celebrate. Tear off his shirt? who knows
chip isbell
Chip Dec 21, 2019 12:43AM ET
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Putin would roast Bernie on the BBQ and serve him up.
 
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