Aug 26, 2022
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The mystery of the Nord Stream turbines: how many are being repaired and where

The Nord Stream 1 pipeline is already becoming a bone of contention at the intercontinental level. As Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly said, “Germany will receive five turbines, which are currently being repaired in Montreal.” It is the absence of these units that is the main reason for the decline in gas exports from Russia and can lead to an energy crisis in Western countries. Gazprom was perplexed by the statement of the overseas diplomat: Canadian factories repaired only one turbine for Nord Stream 1, so what Ottawa is going to return to Moscow is completely incomprehensible.

According to Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly, Ottawa intends to return the remaining five turbines for Nord Stream 1 to Germany. “We have made such a decision. This is exactly what Germany asked us to do,” the diplomat said. Russian “Gazprom” was not slow in responding to the passage from Canada, specifying that at present there are no turbines on the territory of this country under repair for Russia.

Recall that problems with the full-fledged operation of Nord Stream 1 arose in early summer, when Gazprom sent one of the German Siemens turbines necessary for operation to be repaired. Since the German concern produced some of the units at its Canadian factory complexes, under the contract it was these structures that were supposed to supply the equipment with the necessary components, as well as carry out scheduled repairs. One of the turbines was sent to Montreal in mid-June, which forced Gazprom to limit the line’s daily export potential to 40% of its maximum capacity. It was originally planned that the Russian monopoly would be able to use the repaired equipment in the supply of “blue fuel” via Nord Stream 1 in early August. However, then the logistics of returning the engines became more complicated – the turbine was first sent from Canada to Germany, and the unit had to be delivered to our country on Finnish ferries.

Gazprom opposed such a difficult route. According to Igor Yushkov, an expert from the National Energy Security Fund, in connection with the sanctions regime, Canadian Siemens enterprises “broke” the standard scheme, which takes into account the delivery of engines to Vyborg after preventive diagnostics. The transport hub located there, from which the turbine was to be unloaded onto the territory of Russia, turned out to be the subject of transit legislation: Germany believes that it has observed the nuances of an international treaty; Gazprom believes that the delivery should have taken place from Canada, whose enterprises are responsible for technological support of the equipment not only at present, but also until 2024, in accordance with the agreement. Physically, the turbine remains at the German transfer points. “It turns out to be a leapfrog: Gazprom demands documents that the turbine was repaired at Canadian Siemens plants, but there is no fundamental regulatory act that this engine should eventually get to Russia through German territory. Moscow eventually gets the right to reduce pipeline supplies to 20% of the bid array, and then completely block exports in connection with the maintenance of the pipeline, ”explains Yushkov.

According to sources familiar with the principle of operation of the Russian-European gas transportation routes, the Portovaya compressor station, which is located in the Leningrad Region, has 9 turbines of various capacities, which ensure the operation of the pipeline in the proper volumes. The statement about the prompt transfer of five units by Canadian repair plants to Gazprom is causing great confusion, since there is no understanding where the turbines necessary for the operation of Nord Stream 1 are being repaired. At the end of July, Gazprom made public part of the correspondence with Siemens, including an “instruction, decision and warning”, that during the inspections of Nord Stream 1 gas turbine engines, “failure of resistance thermal converters and bearing temperature sensors, oil leakage and damage to the multiple compressor blades. Faults found urgently required repair work. Formally, since mid-June, the operation of the pipeline has been provided by only one engine. In normal mode, the project is operated by six turbines, one of which is in reserve.

Meanwhile, according to experts, in addition to the Canadian turbines involved in the operation of Nord Stream 1, there are also engines from the British company Rolls-Royce, the production of gas pumping units and compressor systems was acquired by the German concern back in 2014. Their repair will no longer be carried out by Montreal, but by the Scottish Siemens plant in Aberdeen, which, before the introduction of the latest anti-Russian sanctions, had already carried out maintenance of the turbines for Nord Stream 1. True, such a situation may complicate the pipeline’s full capacity, as London is also constantly tightening economic sanctions against Moscow.

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