Nord Stream 2 Officials Optimistic Denmark Will Approve Pipeline Proposal

BERLIN (Reuters) - The Russian-led Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline company expects to receive approval from Danish authorities for a 110-mile (177-km) stretch of the pipeline under the Baltic Sea in time to finish the pipeline by the end of 2019 as planned, a spokesman said on Monday.

Nord Stream 2 spokesman Jens Mueller said there was "good reason" to believe Danish authorities would process a second proposal submitted by the project in August 2018 within eight to 12 months, allowing the pipeline to be finished on schedule.

Even if the Danes acted late in the year, the company could bring in additional ships to lay the pipeline, Mueller said, noting that two ships now working off the coast of Sweden were completing about 3.7 miles (6 km) a day. At that rate, the Danish segment could be completed in a month, he said.

The $12 billion (11 billion euro) 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.

The 760-mile (1,225-km) pipeline, already under construction, has come under fire from the United States, and several eastern European, Nordic and Baltic Sea countries who fear it will increase EU reliance on Moscow.

The pipeline, which would carry gas straight to Germany under the Baltic Sea, has also been criticized in some quarters because it would deprive Ukraine of lucrative gas transit fees.

Four countries - Finland, Sweden, Germany and Russia - have approved the pipeline's construction, but Denmark has been holding out. Nord Stream 2 in August 2018 proposed an alternate route that would route the pipeline through Danish exclusive economic zone waters but avoid its territorial waters.

"There is good reason to assume that we will receive this approval at a timepoint when we can complete this construction in an uncomplicated manner," Mueller said.

He also played down the risk that Washington could impose sanctions against companies involved under the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) law.

U.S. State Department guidance issued in October 2017 made clear the law did not apply to investments made before passage of the legislation in August 2017, months after Nord Stream signed contracts with its Western investors.

"Looking at the existing legal framework, we have to conclude that Nord Stream 2 cannot be affected," Mueller said.

U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell in January warned German companies involved in the project that they could face sanctions if they stuck with the project.

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