Nord Stream 2 says Denmark tries to delay pipeline as it seeks third route option

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - Nord Stream 2 said on Monday that “despite legal reservations” it had submitted an application for a third route option for its 11 billion euro ($12.44 billion) gas pipeline in Danish waters.

FILE PHOTO: The Nord Stream 2 pipe laying vessel Audacia is pictured off Ruegen island, Germany, November 7, 2018. REUTERS/Axel Schmidt/File Photo

The Russian-led company already has two pending route applications with Danish authorities, of which the first was submitted more than two years ago, but last month it was asked to asses a third route option.

Nord Stream 2 said on Monday this request could only be seen as “a deliberate attempt to delay the project’s completion.

“Irrespective of its own starkly different legal assessment, Nord Stream 2 AG is now forced to submit this third application as a mitigation measure,” it said in a statement.

The area of the third route option only recently became available after a demarcation negotiation with Poland ended.

“Our immediate assessment is that this route is more appropriate based on a number of environmental and safety parameters,” said special advisor at the Danish Energy Agency Morten Christensen in response to Nord Stream 2’s criticism.

The 1,225 km (765 miles) pipeline, now under construction, has come under fire from the United States and several eastern European, Nordic and Baltic Sea countries which fear it will increase the European Union’s reliance on Russian gas.

Nord Stream 2 has said it still expects to finish the pipeline by the end of 2019, but the Danish obstacles could delay the project.

The Danish Energy Agency said in a separate statement it could not say how long the permit process would take.

Denmark still has the possibility to veto the initial route option after it passed a law in 2017 that could allow it to ban the pipeline from passing through its territorial waters on security grounds.

However, the veto cannot be applied for the two remaining applications as they would route the pipeline through Denmark’s exclusive economic zone waters but not its territorial waters.

The Nord Stream 2 project is led by Russian state energy firm Gazprom, with some 50 percent of the funding provided by Germany’s Uniper and BASF’s Wintershall unit, Anglo-Dutch firm Shell, Austria’s OMV and France’s Engie.

Four countries - Finland, Sweden, Germany and Russia - have already approved the pipeline’s construction.

Reporting by Stine Jacobsen; Editing by Ken Ferris