Ukraine will continue to seek a wider US involvement in its efforts to halt the construction of the remaining segments of Russia's Nord Stream 2 subsea gas export pipeline to Germany, as well as any operation of this pipeline in the future, according to the country’s top governmental officials.
Nord Stream 2 is of “utmost importance and a very sensitive issue for Ukraine”, President Vladimir Zelensky said in joint remarks to the press after meeting with visiting US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken in Kiev on Thursday.
Zelensky said the issue was raised both during his own talks with Blinken and during talks between the US Secretary of State and Ukraine’s Cabinet Chairman Denis Shmygal.
Shmygal has called for an approval of a “long-term mechanism to ensure that Nord Stream 2 is never built or operated as an energy weapon” against Ukraine and European nations.
With an annual throughput capacity of about 146 billion cubic metres of gas, Ukraine’s gas pipeline network is scheduled to transport about 40 Bcm of Russian gas to Europe this year.
In the past 20 years, Russia has rubber-stamped expansive plans by state controlled gas monopoly Gazprom to build new subsea gas pipelines that would to take Ukraine out of the transit arrangement and deprive it of its revenues.
Two of these pipelines, Nord Stream and TurkStream, are already in operation, with an annual capacity of close to 90 Bcm of gas.
Meanwhile, Nord Stream 2 will add another 55 Bcm of annual capacity for Gazprom, with the three pipelines providing the gas giant with excessive export capacity to Europe.
On the eve of the Blinken’s visit to Kiev, the chief engineer of Ukraine’s state gas pipeline owner Operator GTS Ukrainy told Kiev-based newspaper Den that Russian plans to halt gas transit flows across Ukraine after the start-up of Nord Stream 2 will trigger idling and de-commissioning of existing pumping stations along large sections of the country’s pipeline network.
As of today, already half of the capacity of the gas pipeline network is unused because of reduced gas transit flows, said chief engineer Yuri Zyabchenko.
He claimed that sites hosting unused pumping stations could be upgraded with the installation of gas-fired generators to provide electric power to regional customers, taking advantage of existing broadband connections to infrastructure and gas supply
Though current gas transit contract with Gazprom expires at the end of 2024, Operator GTS Ukrainy is already working on upgrades to pipeline pumping stations in the west of the country to handle higher volumes of gas imports from Europe, according to Zyabchenko.