In a move likely to increase tensions between Europe and the US, a Republican senator yesterday introduced a bill that would enable US sanctions against companies investing in or helping to build the €9.5bn Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea.
If passed, the bill lodged by Wyoming Senator John Barrasso could be used to target European investors in the 1,230-km pipeline: Royal Dutch Shell, Austrian energy group OMV, French energy firm Engie, and German companies Uniper and Wintershall Dea.
The bill could also make life difficult for marine engineering firms laying the pipe, including Swiss-headquartered Allseas and Italy’s Saipem.
They were targeted last month when Barrasso co-sponsored a bipartisan bill that would impose sanctions against vessels, such as Allseas’, which are used to lay deep-sea pipelines for Russian gas.Â
Seen by GCR, the latest bill is called "Energy Security Cooperation with Allied Partners in Europe" – abbreviated as ESCAPE. Barrasso said its intent was to help "NATO Allies increase energy security and escape bullying by Russia".Â
It authorises US sanctions on anyone who invests $1m or more in Nord Stream 2, or $5m over a year, and anyone who sells services worth those amounts for Nord Stream 2 and any Russian pipeline.
Its other purpose is to boost US gas exports to European and other allies through a "comprehensive transatlantic energy strategy". Wyoming is rich in shale gas, recovered by fracking.
Launching the bill, Senator Barrasso said: "President Trump was right when he recently said that Germany will be held hostage by Russia if they move forward with Russia’s Nord Stream II gas pipeline.
"We already know Russian President Vladimir Putin has a history of using Russia’s natural gas to extort and threaten our allies. The ESCAPE Act will take away this geopolitical weapon by sanctioning the Nord Stream II pipeline and expanding American natural gas exports.
"In the United States-especially in Wyoming-we’re blessed with an abundance of natural gas. It only makes sense that we would use these resources to help our allies and loosen Putin’s economic and political grip on the region."
There is support in Europe for the pipeline, however.
Of the four European countries whose approval is needed for it to cross their territorial waters – Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Germany – only Denmark has so far withheld permission, prompting the project company, Nord Stream 2 AG, to explore a route that skirts its territory.
Image: Allseas’ vessel Solitaire laying Nord Stream 2 pipe in Swedish waters (Allseas)