Germany’s Olaf Scholz pins blame for Nord Stream 1 gas turbine glitch on Russia
German chancellor Olaf Scholz has laid the blame for delays in the deployment of a crucial turbine for the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline on Russia, accusing it of failing to take delivery of the equipment.
“It’s obvious that nothing — absolutely nothing — stands in the way of this turbine being transported to Russia and installed there,” he said on Wednesday.
Gazprom, the Russian gas group, had cited the absence of the turbine as it reduced the flow of gas through Nord Stream 1 in mid-June by 60 per cent. It went further last week, reducing flows to 20 per cent of its capacity.
The move stoked fears that Europe would fail to fill its gas storage ahead of the crucial winter heating season and be faced with an energy crunch that could leave people shivering in their homes, disrupt industrial production and tip Europe into a recession.
Scholz made the remarks while standing next to the turbine at the centre of the row — an unusual intervention designed to show the German public there was nothing stopping Gazprom taking delivery.
But Gazprom continues to insist that the problems with Nord Stream 1 are Europe’s fault, citing problems with turbine maintenance. “We urge the partners to resolve the issues as soon as possible and the situation with gas supplies to the European market will immediately normalise,” deputy chief executive Vitaly Markelov told state TV Rossiya-24.
The turbine had been undergoing maintenance in Canada, but the Canadian government initially refused to send it back to Russia, citing the sanctions regime it imposed on the Kremlin over Ukraine. Ottawa later relented, after Scholz asked it to exempt the kit from the sanctions.
In lobbying the Canadian government and pushing for the turbine to be sent back to Russia, Scholz sought to ensure that Gazprom no longer had any excuse to reduce Nord Stream 1’s capacity.
“What’s important is to make clear that this turbine can be deployed and used at any time,” he said during his visit to the Siemens Energy plant at Mülheim an der Ruhr. “There’s nothing mystical going on here . . . The turbine is there, it can be delivered, someone just has to say they’d like to have it.”
Christian Bruch, chief executive of Siemens Energy, which made the turbine, said Gazprom had no justification for blaming the throttling of gas flows through Nord Stream 1 on the absence of the turbine.
He said that when it was sent to Canada, the Russians had an identical spare that could have been installed in its place. He said there were six such turbines in Portovaya, Nord Stream 1’s compressor station, and only five were needed for the pipeline to reach 100 per cent capacity. Yet only one was currently working. “That’s why we’re on just 20 per cent now,” he said.
But Markelov insisted there was only one gas compressor working at Portovaya because it was the only one “in working condition”. Turbines at other units required maintenance or repairs, he said, and could not be used in their current state because they did not meet Russian regulatory standards.
Bruch said Siemens Energy had prepared all the customs documents needed for shipping the turbine to Russia, but Moscow was not co-operating with the authorities to ensure the machine could be delivered.
As a result, “despite the fact we’ve had this turbine here for more than a week, we can’t ship it”, he said.